You know that a problem is big when it trickles down to the smallest members of our society. And that's what happened this week, as a team of eight-year-old football players in Belleville, Illinois followed in the footsteps of many NFL players and took a knee during the national anthem in protest of the wave of black people killed by police in recent times.
Cahokia Quarterback Club coach Orlando Gooden said that it was one of his team members ideas to protest in this way. He told the local Fox affiliate that the boy approached him concerned about the protests in St. Louis, and said he was worried “because black people are getting killed and nobody’s going to jail.”
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The team discussed the protests in St. Louis, and the reasons for it—the acquittal of St. Louis cop Jason Stockley in conjunction with the death of Anthony Lamar Smith. And Gooden mentioned how Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, tried to bring attention to the issue by kneeling during the national anthem.
“One of the kids asked, ‘Can we do that?’" Gooden recalls. "I said, ‘As long as we know why we’re doing it, I don’t have a problem with any of it.’” Gooden also checked in with the parents to ensure everyone was on board before the game. And they were—and all 25 of the team's members took the knee at their game on Sunday.
But the protest drew outrage. Fox media commentator Rachel Campos-Duffy criticized the children for their actions. "Our own American citizens are showing such disregard for the United States, the flag and really the blood that has been spilled on behalf of all of us for our freedoms. I'm the daughter of a veteran and this is deeply offensive. Nonetheless, they absolutely do have the right to do this, but we have the right to get on TV and say this is shameful."
But as a fellow daughter of a veteran, I don't see the shame in taking a knee during the anthem. People often criticized other civil rights leaders—including Gandhi, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.—for being similarly "disrespectful" in their methods of protest. To me, flags are simply fabric—and we see no such outrage when people wear flag-adorned clothing or use flag-adorned paper plates on the 4th of July (both of which are against flag code). My father and his fellow veterans didn't fight for a piece of fabric—they fought for our rights, including the freedom to protest and the freedom of speech. And these children honored that by expressing themselves in a peaceful way.
I would let my child take the knee if she felt strongly about doing it as a form of protest. Would you?