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Football coach respects BHS players’ decision to kneel in response to president’s comments

Team joins NFL players in protest against police brutality

Hayden Evans, Staff Reporter
Originally published October 20, 2017

Miles WhitworthVarsity football players kneel during the national anthem against West Seattle High School on Sept. 30.

Miles Whitworth

Varsity football players kneel during the national anthem against West Seattle High School on Sept. 30.

Numerous players from around the NFL protest police brutality against African-Americans recently. Although this movement has been attracting attention ever since Colin Kaepernick started it last August, this season brought a dramatic increase in the number of participating players. Over 200 players protested during the national anthem on Sept. 24; many of them participated in response to President Donald Trump’s comments at a rally in Alabama on Sept. 22. Trump criticized the NFL for allowing its players to kneel during the national anthem, and said that NFL players who chose to kneel should be fired. He also encouraged a boycott of the NFL until it addresses the issue.

NFL players have been kneeling during the national anthem since Kaepernick started the movement at a preseason game in August of 2016. When questioned about his choice to kneel during the anthem by a reporter at a post-game press conference, Kaepernick responded by saying he chose to kneel because of the continued unfair treatment of people of color by law enforcement officials.

The movement attracted a lot of media attention, and other players from around the league began joining in as well. Former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane was the second player to kneel during the anthem. He kneeled during the final preseason game of the 2016 season. By week one of the NFL season, 11 players from around the league chose to participate in the protest.

Last football season, many players on the football team started kneeling during the national anthem at games. Some players have continued to kneel this season. Head Coach Ross Humphries supports players in their decision to protest during the anthem, just as long as they’re respectful. “We’ve talked about it as a team, whether you want to kneel or stand, that’s your business and we will respect you for it. We just don’t want to see anybody being disrespectful during that time,” Humphries said.

Humphries also wants his players to make their own decisions regarding the anthem. He doesn’t want to see players looking at their teammates and basing their decision to kneel or stand on other players. Humphries said the whole team had a discussion about kneeling and standing during anthems before the season started; he told players that they were free to kneel during the anthem, but he encouraged them to think about what exactly they were kneeling for.

Our players aren’t the only players kneeling in Seattle. Last fall, the Garfield football team received national attention when all of its players decided to kneel together during the anthem before a game against West Seattle. The team announced that it had unanimously decided to kneel during the anthem because of the repeated instances of white police officers shooting unarmed black men. Many of its players continue to kneel this season.

The history of the national anthem at NFL games is more complicated than it may seem. The first documented performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a sports event occurred at a baseball game in Brooklyn, New York on May 15, 1862. At the time, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was not even the United States’ national anthem; it was used as an anthem for the army and navy. It didn’t become the official national anthem until 1931, but it wasn’t performed at every professional sports event until 1943. Prior to 1943 it was saved for special occasions; championship games or games on holidays were the only ones where the anthem was performed. It was simply too expensive for teams to hire a band to play the anthem at every game.

In the World War II era, patriotism was at an all-time high. Many Americans thought of the National Anthem as support for the soldiers fighting in World War II. New sound systems also allowed the playing of recorded music at sports events, so the anthem was no longer a financial burden on teams. The performance of the national anthem before professional sports games has remained standard since the second World War.

Players’ actions during the national anthem have not always appeared as patriotic as they do today. Before 2009, the NFL did not have a policy regarding teams’ actions during the national anthem. Some teams chose to stay in the locker rooms for the anthem, while others continued warming up on the sidelines.

In 2014, Jeff Flake and John McCain, both senators from Arizona, revealed in a joint oversight report titled “Tackling Paid Patriotism” that the Department of Defense had paid the NFL $5.4 million since 2009 in order for teams to display “patriotic salutes” during the pre-game national anthem. Interestingly, the NFL changed its policy regarding the anthem in 2009; teams were no longer allowed to stay in locker rooms for the anthem, and players were “highly encouraged” to participate in the performance.

The National Guard has spent an additional $6.7 million on marketing and advertising contracts with professional sports teams from 2012 to 2015. This money led to teams honoring war veterans before games and participating in military appreciation games. This was all part of a huge military recruitment campaign that was started in 2009 and has been met with much displeasure from politicians across the country.

McCain and Flake accused the Department of Defense of paid patriotism: paying people to appear patriotic when they may not be otherwise. “What is upsetting is when you see activities like this that people assume when they go to games are paid for out of the goodness of the heart by the owners and the teams, and then to find out the taxpayers are paying for it,” Flake said at a news conference with McCain in 2015.

“Tackling Paid Patriotism” also included a list of how much money professional sports teams received from the Department of Defense. The Atlanta Falcons received $879,000, more than any other team. The Seahawks were eighth on the list at $453,000. Of the ten teams that received the most from the Department of Defense, eight of them were in the NFL.

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Football coach respects BHS players’ decision to kneel in response to president’s comments