The Kent State men’s basketball team prefaced their season home opener against Mississippi Valley State on Wednesday night in a very unique way.

Kent State Men’s Basketball Team Puts New Spin On National Anthem Statement

Each player went up into the crowd and invited a fan of a different age, gender or race to stand alongside them during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The move was meant to display unity, the Golden Flashes stated, in a special twist on the national anthem protests that have been taking place at sports games all across the country. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first launched the protest by sitting before a preseason football game to make a statement about nation-wide racial inequality and oppression.

According to, senior Deon Edwin approached Coach Rob Senderoff with the idea.

“It takes courage for our players to make a statement like this, and I believe it is a representation of the unity in our campus community,” Senderoff told the Associated Press. “There’s a lot of people protesting the national anthem, or protesting the election, or religion. You see all of that nationally, and our guys wanted to make a statement. To me, it was a tremendously positive statement. Hopefully everybody can recognize that. I have a lot of African American players on my team, and they have faced discrimination because of the color of their skin.”

Kent State’s powerful gesture seems particularly strong given that it comes merely one week after a highly vitriolic presidential election– which Republican candidate Donald Trump won– that saw divisiveness and racial tensions escalate. It is also meaningful given the number of incidents of police brutality against unarmed people of color that have occurred over the past two years.

According to university spokesman Eugene Canal, the move was also effective because it came as a total yet pleasant surprise to the crowd.

“It went very well. It came off very organic,” he told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. “All the players went into the stands and picked people from the crowd. Everyone came down on the court and was arm-to-shoulder. Fans seemed to really appreciate it.

“It was cool because I don’t think anyone in the crowd knew what was going on. None of the fans knew about it beforehand.”

Kent State defeated the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils, 93-63. The Kent, Ohio-based Golden Flashes (2-) will next face the South Dakota Coyotes in Florida on Monday.

LAWRENCE, KS – DECEMBER 30: Kelly Oubre Jr. #12 of the Kansas Jayhawks and Devareaux Manley #0 of the Kent State Golden Flashes chase after a loose ball during the game at Allen Fieldhouse on December 30, 2014 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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