For the most part, Ball State's Family Weekend game against Eastern Kentucky went exactly as expected. The Cardinals beat their FCS opponent 41-14 in a packed Scheumann Stadium.
But before the game, in the stands behind the south end zone, a group of students with red squares pinned on their black shirts sat down and raised their fists when the band started playing "The Star-Spangled Banner."
L.J. Herbert, a junior creative writing major, said the students were inspired by recent events near campus, including a controversial sorority photo and reports of a racist note near campus.
"We were sitting during the national anthem here showing solidarity just for the different racial incidents that have been happening near the campus and also nationwide tension," he said.
Kenneth Cohen, a junior telecommunications major and president of Men of Color, said they were partially inspired by Colin Kaepernick, a San Francisco 49ers quarterback who has been kneeling during the anthem at NFL games.
"The movement, or us coming together and deciding to sit during the national anthem and hold our fists up, is not a protest," Cohen said. "It is not done to disrespect any veteran, any part of the military, not to disrespect the country. As Colin Kaepernick said, it was just to show our stance, and we're not going to forget about things that are going on right now."
Cohen said they plan on sitting at every home game, though a single organization is not in charge.
Herbert, for example, is a member of Impact, a Christian group on campus. The Progressive Student Alliance also had members present.
"I'm not entirely sure who originated the idea," Herbert said. "But I know there's been coordination within the different black student organizations, so I heard about it through them."
Maggie West, a junior telecommunications major, said they banded together because "people of color aren't getting the justice that they deserve."
"This is just us voicing our opinion that this is something that's bothering us," she said. "We just want them to listen."
Aside from a few glances from fans standing nearby, the group was left alone. Senior dietetics major Travis Muller said it's because there's no law or policy requiring fans to stand, even if it is frowned upon.
"Our main purpose is to show that people have different interpretations of what the flag means," Muller said. "And just because we want to show that — the best part of our society is that we get to not stand up for the flag."
The group slowly broke apart and trickled out of the stadium at about the same rate as the student section in general — after all, it was a 41-14 blowout — but they stayed for the game.
Cohen said they stayed because they want to fix Ball State, not leave it.
"This isn't a situation where we want to break away from Ball State," he said. "This isn't a secession or anything like that. We still come out, we still support the football players."
Hopefully, Muller said, the campus will pull together.
"We love Ball State," he said. "We want the best for it, and sometimes the best things are not the easiest conversations to have."