— The Seattle Times (@seattletimes) September 22, 2016
The reaction was widespread, divided, and intense last week after the entire Garfield High football team voted to kneel during the national anthem for the rest of its season as a silent protest against racial injustice.
While many were supportive, backlash against players, coaches, and the school was in some instances extreme and threatening as news of the demonstration spread nationwide. Seattle Public Schools does not publicly address safety issues concerning specific students or staff, but a spokesperson said the school and Seattle Police are taking precautionary measures during Friday night’s game.
“There will be increased SPS safety and security presence at the game,” said SPS spokesperson Luke Deucy. “SPD will also increase police presence at the game.”
23rd Ave’s Garfield will be back at the SW Athletic Complex Friday to play Chief Sealth and will once again take a knee during the anthem. CHS has learned some family members of Garfield players will be wearing white t-shirts as a display of solidarity with the team’s decision to take a knee.
Coach Joey Thomas released a statement to address the backlash and clarify the team’s position.
“We have increasingly heavy hearts over various issues that have been escalating in the media,” said the statement. “Many of us have been touched in some way in our own personal lives by racism, segregation and bias.”
Garfield principal Ted Howard said he backed the team’s decision. “I commend them for their convictions and support their desire to be a catalyst for a better future,” he said.
The team also identified six concerns that lead to its decision to kneel for the anthem:
- Equality for all regardless of race, gender, class, social standing and/or sexual orientation – both in and out of the classroom as well as the community.
- Increase of unity within the community. Changing the way the media portrays crime. White people are typically given justification while other minorities are seen as thugs, etc.
- Academic equality for students. Certain schools offer programs/tracks that are not available at all schools or to all students within that school. Better opportunities for students who don’t have parental or financial support is needed. For example, not everyone can afford Advanced Placement (AP) testing fees and those who are unable to pay those fees, are often not encouraged to enroll into those programs. Additionally, the academic investment doesn’t always stay within the community.
- Lack of adequate training for teachers to interact effectively with all students. Example, “Why is my passion mistaken for aggression?” “Why when I get an A on a test, does the teacher tell me, ‘Wow, I didn’t know you could pull that off.’”
- Segregation through classism.
- Getting others to see that institutional racism does exist in our community, city, state, etc.
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.
Supporters of Kaepernick and Garfield players say recent police shootings of African American men in Charlotte and Tulsa further demonstrate the need to speak out.