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Lessons from HS Students' Anthem Protests

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The Daily News of Los Angeles

 

By now, we've seen the ripple effects of Colin Kaepernick's protest reach high school sports. Several teams protested last year and last week, more followed suit either by kneeling or locking arms.

Last week, two Taft frosh/soph volleyball players took a knee before a game and Notre Dame's football team locked arms, with eight players taking a knee.

When asked about it, the kids were thoughtful and reasoned. It wasn't about mimicking the pros but following their lead because they understood it was a way to make their voice heard.

Some called them brave. Some had negative comments. Some questioned if they knew what they were doing.

That's the risk of speaking up - dealing with the reaction. It's a lesson kids learn on the field so it will serve them well off it.

Yet it begs the question - aren't those students living up to what high school education should be? Asking about their world and how can they make their voice heard?

There are those who say high school venues are no place for peaceful and respectful protests. Yet we sure find ways to make them places for other worthy causes.

Students have already done this by charity. Last year, Grace Brethren soccer player Frankie Allegra held a holiday drive to raise money for families in need. Royal hosted a Military Appreciation Night on September 22. This month, you'll see teams support breast cancer awareness and kids wearing pink in some fashion.

If we praise actions like these, we should at least commend athletes for their bravery in speaking up on injustices. Whether you agree or not, at least it shows they care about something beyond themselves.

If they are young enough to raise money, they're not young enough to engage issues that affect them.

I was a high school senior when 9/11 happened 16 years ago. We had discussions that day while consuming the news and we also applied what we learned in government class to what the country did afterwards.

Point is, kids know what's going on. And it's all right to use sports to make their voice heard, considering we use sports to speak loud on other things.

For those who argue those who knelt are disrespecting the flag, Kaepernick knelt after meeting with veterans for a compromise once he started to be noticed for sitting during the anthem.

The volleyball players said they protested out of fear brought about by anti-immigration rhetoric by President Donald Trump and not feeling respected by him. One of the players mentioned sentencing disparities between African-American and White people guilty of crimes.

A Notre Dame football player said he knelt to raise awareness for social issues and adding the ideals represented by the flag were not being upheld.

Does that sound rash or emotional?

Both cases sounded as thoughtful and measured as when I ran into a former prep football player last week who told me he is currently training to join the Navy. None of his family members are in the military, but he felt the call to pursue it.

Taft volleyball coach Arman Mercado said he was proud of his girls for showing interest in society. Notre Dame's coaches should be commended for allowing the team to meet and discuss what to do.

Isn't that what we want from our kids? Being aware of the outside world instead of only consuming technology.

Somebody said to me on Twitter what will kids do next after taking knees? I believe that question should go toward coaches and teachers.

Coaches should not do what a coach did in Texas by kicking off two players who knelt for the anthem. They should allow space for kids to talk on these issues and guide healthy dialogue among players.

Teachers can do the same. Kids have seen so much in the news, we need to continue helping them process it in healthy ways.

Administrators can follow the advice of CIF executive director Roger Blake. Use the NFL protests as a learning opportunity. Allow for discussion and teaching peaceful disagreement. Teach kids to actively listen to different points of view.

This will encourage kids, instead of dismissing them whenever they speak up. And for those who dismiss, remember the words of David Bowie from his classic hit, "Changes".

"And these children that you spit on/As they try to change their worlds/Are immune to your consultations/They're quite aware of what they're going through."

What happened last week was not a disgrace or kids being stupid. It was another way to put their education to use. Whether you agree or not, standing up for what they believe in is just as important as what they do in athletics.

It won't always be neat or fully mature but at 14-18 years old, they aren't too young to be aware of the world. And they aren't too young to be taught how to handle it.

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October 6, 2017
 
 
 

 

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