By Alexis Smith
On October Third, 2016, the choir of Aurora Central High School started to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” as the knee of Vicari Horton hit the grass. Parents in the stands are either biting their tongues in frustration or holding up their fists to show support.
“When Kaepernick kneeled, he gave us an outlet. He gave us something to do.” said Mr. Horton, a junior tight end at Aurora Central High School.
Colin Kaepernick’s protest against racial injustice and police brutality is being spread throughout the country. The actions of Kaepernick are being reenacted by young athletes. Not only is it being done by high school players, but youth teams as well.
America is seeing high school football players take a knee during the National Anthem, as they follow in the footsteps of their idol Colin Kaepernick, star quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.
In their next football game crushing their rivals, the Hinkley Thunderbirds, 41-6, the “Star Spangled Banner” started to play as 44 members of Aurora Central High’s football team dropped to their knees.
A white sixty year old army veteran and Thunderbird fan, Melinda Holt, was at the game to see her grandson play when she took offense to the protest.
“It’s ignorance,” Ms. Holt said of the kneelers. “You are dishonoring our flag for the actions of a few. That’s like holding every black man or every white man accountable for what somebody else has done. And that’s wrong.”
On the other side of the sidelines sat a military wife, Maria Mitchell. She said that she believes that standing for the anthem is a way to honor lives lost in war.
“And if you’re not a person of color, you don’t understand any of it,” she said. “To wake up every day and not know whether your kids are coming home or not, just because of their color, is ridiculous.”
“Unless we walk in their shoes and feel what they feel on an everyday basis, we have no room to judge,” she continued. “We can choose to support, or not support and be blind.”
Players at Garfield High School in Seattle; Castlemont High in Oakland, California; Woodrow Wilson High in Camden, New Jersey; and Mission High in San Francisco. At Omaha Central High, cheerleaders and band members have joined the protest such as in Beaumont, Texas, and so have 11 and 12-year-olds from a youth team called the Beaumont Bulls.
These players are a generation of technology. Growing up at the time, Facebook and Twitter were born and did not help the cause. Seeing and hearing about African Americans being shot by police on these apps set the tone for these actions.
According to the New York Times, many interviews were taken by news broadcasters. “We know what we’re doing; we made a conscious decision,” said Jalil Grimes, 17, a senior and the team’s starting quarterback. “We see police do us wrong. We see our teachers give up on us and expect us to fail. We’ve always seen this. Once we saw somebody else stand up against it, we just fell in line.”
These kids took responsibility to ask coaches and school district members if taking part in this action was allowed. The district staff took note and replied by supporting their student athletes.
“Any time young kids can speak their minds, it’s always good,” said Tony Veasley, 49, a part-time coach for the Trojans who said six of his sons had graduated from Aurora Central.
A few hundred feet away, inside the empty stadium, the 81-year-old press box manager, Bob Blair, looked out onto the field.
“They’ve never been anywhere to see what the rest of the world hasn’t got and what we have: It’s called freedom,” Mr. Blair said. “We don’t agree with it, but we can’t stop it.”