An Illinois kids’ football team is garnering national attention after players kneeled for the Star-Spangled Banner at a game Sunday night.
According to their coach, who spoke to Bellville station KTVI, one player opened up a conversation about the protests in St. Louis, which were going on just five miles away from their town of Cahokia. This sparked all members of the team—ages 8 and younger—to take a knee.
“One of the kids asked me if I saw (people) rioting in St. Louis,” said Coach Orlando Gooden of his Quarterback Club team. “I said yes, do you know why they are doing it?”
Coach Gooden said the team responded with, “Because Black people are getting killed and nobody is going to jail.”
The question opened up a larger teaching moment for Gooden to speak about Colin Kaepernick and his decision to sit for the national anthem, which sparked a massive national debate between those who believed he was brave to stand up to injustice and those who thought it disrespectful. Gooden also said his players knew of Officer Jason Stockley, who was acquitted on Friday of murdering black motorist Anthony Smith—a verdict that sparked the protests in St. Louis.
“I felt like it was a good teaching moment for me to circle the team and have a meeting,” Gooden said. Soon after, one kid asked if they could kneel as well.
“As long as you know why you’re doing it, I don’t have a problem with any of it,” the coach said.
While all parents of the team said they supported the action, others have posted negative opinions on the matter.
Coach O this is what you're kneeling for? “Defence of Fort M’Henry.” I bet those kids don't even know the words to The Star-Spangled Banner! pic.twitter.com/WFfiBQoGje
— duck (@duckusa) September 20, 2017
I coached 6-8 yr old kids football in Sarasota 1988-1990. Would have not condoned the kneeling during National Anthem. Horrible
— David J Potts (@DivineTurbine) September 20, 2017
The coach that had little kids kneeling…should be FIRED IMMEDIATELY!!
— Pittiemomx4 (@dfalls1552) September 20, 2017
“As long as I have support of my parents and team, I’m perfectly fine,” the coach told KTVI, “and I’m covered under the First Amendment to peacefully protest and assemble.”
He also stated he does not see this action turning into a game-day ritual, but a moment he could use as a lesson for his players.