Watkins Mill HS varsity football team kneels during the national anthem. Photo via @BasedGodJae on Twitter.
By David Sheridan
In the weeks since Colin Kaepernick, a San Francisco 49er quarterback, took a knee during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, specifically the killing of unarmed Black men by the police, we’ve seen a growing number of high school student-athletes following his lead.
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The football players of Watkins Mill High School in Gaithersburg, Maryland took the knee before their game with Damascus High School and the significance of their action was felt well beyond the stadium. Damascus principal Jennifer Webster reported that the protest became a huge topic both on social media and inside the classroom. “The Watkins Mill players’ silent protest has started a bigger conversation that must continue,” she added.
The Watkins Mill coach Mike Brown heartily agrees, and although he prefers to stand during the national anthem, he is very proud of his kids. “We teach them every day, to think on their own, problem-solve, stand up. And here they are doing it!”
At Mission High School in San Francisco, where every single player knelt during the national anthem, educators report that this action has sparked substantive discussion among students and educators about racial injustice in America.
In fact, there have been conversation-provoking, kneel-down protests by high school student-athletes across the nation—from Garfield High School in Seattle to Aurora Central High School in Colorado to Madison East and Madison West High Schools in Wisconsin to Woodrow Wilson High in Camden, New Jersey. And at Omaha Central High, cheerleaders and band members joined the protest.
“We have a younger generation that sees these issues and wants to be able to correct them,” says Colin Kaepernick. “I think that’s amazing. I think it shows the strength, the character and the courage of our youth. Ultimately, they’re going to be needed to help make this change.”
And Jennifer Webster, Mike Brown and other educators believe we must support these courageous young people and continue the conversation that they have inspired.