Students, staff, coaches support football team’s protest of police brutality
December 1, 2016
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On the Sept. 23 game against West Seattle, a small minority of Ballard’s football team took part in a simple action that has meshed politics and sports into one for this past football season.
Once the national anthem came on over the loudspeakers at Memorial Stadium, about a dozen players got down on one knee. No hands over hearts, no mouthing along with the words, no standing.
For the past few months, many professional and collegiate athletes have been making headlines for kneeling during the national anthem. The most notable being San Francisco 49er’s quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. He began his protest during the NFL preseason in August, bringing himself to the forefront of an ever-heating racial debate in America.
He has not been alone. Since he started his protest of racial injustice, especially in the form of police shootings against black youth, 48 NFL players among 13 different teams have knelt, sat or raised fists in protest. Some teams, like the Seattle Seahawks, have chose to link arms in unity during anthems.
Whatever way you look at this issue, it has been gaining traction. A few weeks prior to Ballard’s protest, Garfield High School’s team received national news coverage when every player and coach [including former Ballard head coach Joey Thomas] took a knee on the sideline.
“I was influenced by Garfield to show support,” junior wide receiver Rashekem Ausur said. “I wasn’t nervous to participate at all because it was just something that I wanted to do and think is right.”
It goes without saying, this string of protests has caused a lot of football fans to be unhappy. Most people who oppose kneeling say it disrespects the flag and the countless men and women of our military who have fought to defend that flag.
Junior wide receiver Todd Vicencio doesn’t see it that way. “I don’t think of it as disrespect [to the flag]. We’re just trying to spread awareness on the issue.” Todd was one of the few Ballard student-athletes to take a knee before the West Seattle game. He knows that he’s treading into a divisive issue, but he has gotten a lot of support. “Coach [Ross Humphries] has been really supportive of us. He just says as long as we are respectful, he’ll support our views.”
Coach Humphries holds very similar views to Principal Kevin Wynkoop, reminding that among all the controversy “[Students] don’t have to recite the pledge of allegiance or sing the national anthem, but they’re expected to act respectfully.” But what defines “respectful?” According to Mr. Wynkoop, as long as students aren’t making a scene, the protest is perfectly reasonable.
But among all of the hype that goes along with such a popular and polarizing protest, Wynkoop hopes that the students are keeping the actual issues in mind when they go out and protest things like racial inequality and police brutality. “My hope is that they’re doing it because they thought about the issue because they think there’s an outcome they’re trying to get from it. It’s important when you’re protesting something that you have thought about why you’re doing it, what you’re trying to get out of it and to have a greater purpose.”
Meanwhile, the Ballard students and faculty have been supportive of this peaceful protest. “We haven’t had any negative attention so far,” Vicencio said. “Everyone understands why we’re doing this and they know that we aren’t trying to disrespect the flag or anything. We’re just spreading awareness.”