NFL players may be getting all the attention for their league-wide protest against Donald Trump this weekend but a pee wee football team from Illinois beat them to the punch when they controversially chose to kneel during the National Anthem last week. The Junior Comanches are comprised mostly of seven and eight-year-olds. And but coach Orlando “Doc” Goode explains that last week several of his players began discussing the possibility of kneeling during the anthem to protest institutional racism in America. Goode was initially unconvinced kids so young could understand such complex issues, but he admits they proved him wrong by eloquently sharing their thoughts.
The players’ desire to protest primarily centered around former police officer Jason Stockley being found not guilty of first-degree murder for the death of Anthony Lamar Smith. So, after a long decision, the team, including coach Goode, agreed to take a knee while the National Anthem played. Of course, this decision did not come without some controversy.Some high school players have taken a knee, but this appears to be the first time kids this young have done so.
Protesting the flag has become one of the most divisive issues in America, so unsurprisingly people were not happy to see kids taking such a strong action that some perceive as anti-American. While Colin Kaepernick and others have made it clear they are protesting police violence against people of color and not the military or America, many still believe protesting the flag is disrespectful. On Fox and Friends, several adult hosts chose to shame these kids on National TV, implying that they were too young to understand what they were doing and were likely being manipulated by their coach.
All of this happened before this Sunday when the NFL took protesting to a new level after Donald Trump said that any “son of a bitch” who takes a knee during the National Anthem should be fired. Professional football players all around the country took a stand this Sunday by protesting during the Star Spangled Banner. Most teams showed solidarity by having players, coaches, and owners link arms as the National Anthem played, indicating that the league was united against the President’s anti-protest rhetoric. The Steelers, Titans, and Seahawks took the most extreme approach when they all chose to stay in the locker room while the anthem played. Even Trump’s buddy Tom Brady took a stand against him.
This also comes on the heels of the President of the United States getting into a one-sided Twitter fight with Steph Curry after Curry said he wasn’t interested in visiting the White House because of Trump. In response, Trump rescinded his invitation, but LeBron James managed to block Trump’s feeble attempt to save face. Several other NBA players voiced their displeasure with Trump on social media, making it seem inevitable that they will have their own demonstrations once their season officially begins in October. To top it all off, A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first-ever MLB player to kneel during the Anthem on Saturday.
Sports and politics have long attempted to stay separate, but we live in an age where things can no longer be compartmentalized. The Junior Comanches may have been the first youth sports team to kneel, but it’s highly unlikely they will be the last.