Sports | October 23, 2017 9:45 am

High School Athletes on Why They Protest or Pledge During the Anthem

Teenagers from New York, Texas weigh in on the nationwide debate from their point of view.

It seems like a lifetime ago since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem. The nationwide debate his silent protest set off has reached as far as the White House—and as near as your local high school team.

The New York Times tracked down some high school athletes across the nation, and asked them why they’ve been protesting during the national anthem and Pledge of Allegiance. RealClearLife has teased out some of the most revealing quotes. (You might be surprised by how deeply some of the teenagers thought about their protests.)

Naylah Williams, 17, Knelt During Multiple Games – A high school student in upstate New York, Williams told the Times that he Googled and studied on social media why Kaepernick knelt during the anthem, and then came to this conclusion: “It was bothering me that I was thinking about not kneeling because it’s one of those things where I can’t sit back and watch everything happen and not say something about it.”

Williams mentions that when others approached him about kneeling, he wanted to make sure they were doing it for the right reasons, not as part of a fad: “I wanted people to see that there is social injustice, racial inequality and police brutality.”


Unfortunately, he says, in the wake of his protest, some of his teammates received death threats. He also says that the second game he knelt in, people unfurled a Confederate flag in the parking lot. “It was nauseating,” Williams says of the racist display. “Not many people show up to the games. Going out to the stands and seeing all these people show up, I realized this is bigger than I thought it was going to be. I feel that with time, people will understand. Changing someone’s view on something isn’t easy to do.”

Jahmire Cassanova, 17, Knelt During Multiple Games This Year and Last Year (New York) – “When I knelt, on the one hand I felt connected to people who protest against racial inequality and discrimination, but at the same time I felt a disconnect from a number of people in the community at [my high school] Horace Mann,” Cassanova told the Times. “Not because they weren’t kneeling but because I was, and I wasn’t sure if they shared the same sentiments I do about racial discrimination.”

Trenton Faulkner, 18, Stood During Anthem All Season (Texas) – He says he stands during the national anthem at games to show respect for the U.S. military. Despite what Williams said above, Faulkner blames the kneeling at the high-school level on the fact that it’s a trend. “All the kids like to follow the trends,” argues Faulkner. “They probably don’t really reason with what they’re doing. They feel like it’s cool to follow along.”

Caroline Slack, 17, Stands for Pledge of Allegiance—But With Exceptions (Virginia) – Says Slack of why she stands for the Pledge: “Because I have family who is in the military, and I have a lot of reasons why I would stand for the flag.” However, she doesn’t put her hand over her heart, “because while I do stand for the United States, I know that there are there are issues that need to be addressed. Issues that I will not personally face because I am a white girl in the South in a middle-class family.”