As America watches the continuing saga of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem at games, the phenomenon appears to be making its way down to athletes hoping to make it to the big leagues.
Reports indicate that Black student athletes on several New Jersey high school and college football teams are protesting during that national anthem. Questions are being raised as to whether the students can be punished for following their gridiron heroes.
Last weekend, players on the Rutgers University football team stayed in their locker room during the national anthem. The team’s coach, Chris Ash, said they haven’t had any issues in regard to demonstrating.
High school football players have been silently protesting at games across New Jersey. One video making the rounds on social media is from 2016 and features Black students from Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden. Players and coaches are seen kneeling, following the lead of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The coach at the time, Preston Brown, said the players knelt to bring attention to social injustices and economic disparities.
This year, players at Woodrow Wilson High School have been locking arms, according to school representative Maita Soukup.
“The team is doing community service as a way to directly address the social issues they were raising awareness of last season,” she said.
State school board officials say there are no codes or laws for public school students about kneeling during the national anthem. The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association said that it’s up to schools to make their own rules.
Monday, Gov. Chris Christie said during a radio interview that he disagrees with the silent protests.
“I don’t believe that athletes should use the forum of their games to protest things that are outside of the games,” he said. “If they want to protest about things that they’re discontent with around the country, it’s their right to do it. I don’t think it’s right to use a forum that’s provided to them.”