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Garfield High football players plan to kneel for national anthem

The Central District’s high school football team is planning to join a number of professional and student athletes nationwide in an ongoing demonstration against racial injustice during the school’s Friday night game.

The Garfield Bulldogs will travel to West Seattle where the entire team has decided they will kneel for the national anthem and continue to do so for the rest of the season. Coach Joey Thomas tells CHS the decision came out of ongoing conversations the team has had about race and social injustice. Students were particularly motivated to do something after learning about the rarely recited third verse of the Star-Spangled Banner, Thomas said, which celebrates the killing of rebellious slaves.

“One thing we pride ourselves on is we have open and honest conversations about what is going on in this society,” Thomas said. “It led kids to talk about the social injustice they experience … and it led to coaches to talk about what we go though. We’re teaching life skills through sports.”

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began sitting for the national anthem during the NFL’s preseason, sparking a national debate over the gesture. Kaepernick cited police brutality and the killing of unarmed African Americans as primary reasons for his demonstration. Thomas, whose father and grandfather served in the military, said those who argue the protest is disrespectful to service members are misinformed.

“It’s because they are over there fighting for our rights that we can stand for what we believe in,” he said. “It’s because of our military that we can have this silent protest.”

So far, Thomas said the 23rd Ave school has been supportive of the team’s plans. Given the fierce criticism professional athletes have faced for taking part in the protest, Thomas said he has told his players to defer any questions or complaints to him. Kickoff time for Friday’s game is 7 PM at the Southwest Athletic Complex.

“Ultimately it’s to bring awareness and make people realize what’s really going on in this country,” Kaepernick told reporters after first sitting for the anthem. “When there’s significant change, and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, and that flag represents people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”

Seattle Reign player Megan Rapinoe has also taken part in the protest by kneeling while playing for the U.S. women’s national soccer team. The Seattle Seahawks were rumored to be considering joining the protest, but opted to link arms in a display of “unity” during the team’s season opener last week.

Located in the heart of Seattle’s African-American neighborhood, Garfield has a long history of political activism and has been at the center of many Black Lives Matter protests over the past year. Thomas said he is frustrated by those who criticize athletes for expressing their political beliefs as well.

“When athletes get in trouble, they say ‘he should stand for something,’” he said. “When athletes actually stand for something, people become hypocrites. People can’t have it both ways.”

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6 thoughts on “Garfield High football players plan to kneel for national anthem

  1. So, if that “third verse” thing is legit (I’m taking the posted links word for it) then nobody should stand for the anthem. It’s unarguably void as a cheerful, unifying symbol. I’ve always thought nationalistic incantations were lame, but that’s straight-up bad mojo.

    • It’s open to interpretation as to the meaning of the one or two lines in the third verse. The people saying it means one thing today, when it meant something else when written over 204 years ago.

    • These “children” have the same right to free speech and expression as adults do. Why on earth would you get rid of a coach OR cancel the season? People who get their pants in a knot over that national anthem but don’t seem to show 1/500th of the same ire over the treatment of black youth by police have serious problems with their moral compasses.


  2. Francis Scott Key referenced the British Navy’s practice of impressment (kidnapping sailors and forcing them to fight for England). The word “hirelings” refers literally to the group of mercenaries, and “slaves” refers literally to slaves forced to fight for the”crown.”

    The town should boycott the high school game as the country is boycotting the NFL. Sunday Night Football matchup drew in its lowest ratings in seven years (Monday Night Football didn’t fare any better) and last night’s game between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings fell even further. According to Deadline, the primetime portion of last night’s game scored a 13.7/22 in Nielsen’s metered market ratings as the Vikings went on to beat the Packers 17-14. Not only is that down 18% from last year’s ratings, it’s also a 9% dip compared to the SNF opener just last week.

  3. I must speak out against Garfield’s disrespect during the national anthem. Coach Thomas says “those who criticize the action for being disrespectful misunderstand what the action is about.” He said that they “respect people in the armed forces and people serving as officers around the nation. Their kneeling is a comment on the nation’s racial inequality.” It’s interesting that Coach Thomas, his staff and players believe they determine for all Americans what the national anthem represents. The national anthem phrase “for the land of the free, and the home of the brave” pays tribute to our brave soldiers who served and continue to serve, including those who gave lives to ensure the freedoms we enjoy. Washington State’s flag is lowered to half mast in the death of an active member of the armed forces.

    Garfield High Principal Ted Howard says it is “not his issue” and that “these kids are going to be the future leaders and they’re leading.” Mimicking the disrespectful actions of another is not leadership.
    Yes, there is inequality and much work to be done. However, true leadership and driving positive change is demonstrated by showing respect for all while taking an active part in one’s community to make a difference; not by kneeling in disrespect during the national anthem.

    Did anyone take notice that on August 23, 2016, a Washington-based soldier gave his life in battle? Staff Sgt. Matthew Thompson, Special Forces, Joint Base Lewis McChord was killed by an IED in Afghanistan. Staff Sgt. Thompson’s life matters too. Stand up and show some respect.

    Washington State taxpayers, where is your voice? Does it matter to you that one football coach lost his job for kneeling in prayer while these Garfield coaches, staff and football players in state funded public schools kneel in disrespect? Stand up and be heard. These are your tax dollars at work.