National Anthem protests spark conversation nationwide, in North community


Photo by Wendy Li.

Will Kharfen

Photo by Wendy Li.
Photo by Wendy Li.

Since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem before a preseason game in August, there has been a rise of protests against racial inequality across the United States.
North has not been immune from racial intimidation. After a group of students waved the confederate flag on Tiger Drive in September, students responded quickly in an attempt to reunite the community.  
Just few weeks ago, for example, the football team decided to lock arms together to show solidarity for the black community at North before this year’s Friday Night Lights game against Needham.
“Some players were going to kneel, but we thought as a team that it would be better to lock arms and show how we are united and together after having had meetings with deans and coaches at the school,” said senior football captain Isaiah Bowden.
Before the national anthem, Nathaniel Klein, a senior captain, made a speech about the recent events and the team’s response. He urged everyone to stand together as a community.
The football coaches declined to comment on the ongoing issue.
Earlier that day, students from the Leadership in a Diverse Society class held a “Black Lives Matter” forum to let others speak to the confederate flag incident and the national discussion on racial injustice. Senior Jordan Greene described the event as “very powerful, because we were all together.”
He continued, explaining that the meeting “was very important to me because I finally had the opportunity to express the problems in our school with everyone.” Since the event took place, he believes that there has been “more awareness throughout our school.”
The symbol and implications of the American flag has been a central point of discussion. As the winter season approaches, basketball coach Paul Connolly believes it’s all about togetherness in all sports at this school, which makes it very personal because his father was a World War Two veteran, and “the flag has special meaning to him personally and special meaning to many others.”
Connolly also believes that people are responsible for standing during the national anthem. “It’s not the norm to kneel. People are supposed to stand for the national anthem and show respect for our country and our forefathers,” he added.
Players on our athletic teams have also expressed their opinions on the nationwide protests. Bowden believes that kneeling might be going a little too far. “People can do what they want and have the freedom to do that, but kneeling is a little too far and locking arms just makes a bigger statement,” he said.
Sophomore Noah Neville, an African-American member of the basketball and football teams, believes that it is okay for players and fans to kneel. “It makes me feel good that people are sitting because it shows me that there are people supporting me and are standing by me,” he said, adding that, “It’s created a lot of conversation, which is a good thing. The more we speak about it, the more discussion it creates.”
Across the country, there have been a reported total of 45 NFL players from 13 NFL teams who have knelt, sat, or raised a fist during the national anthem on game day, according to ESPN. There have also been three teams that have linked arms or held hands to unite together. Fourteen WNBA players, professional soccer player Megan Rapinoe, and gold medal swimmer Anthony Ervin have also all protested. Following the trend, at least 37 high schools, 17 colleges, and two youth leagues in 30 states across the country have worked against inequality in this country.
On the popular sports debate show First Take, sports analysts Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman discussed the current situation of athletes kneeling around our country and taking a stand.
“People say that it is disrespectful to the soldiers, but I disagree because they sacrifice themselves to enable people to have the ability to exercise your rights of the constitution,” Smith said, adding that Kaepernick is simply, “Exercising his rights.”
Kellerman also voiced his support for the protests of athletes across the nation. “He’s protesting the manifestation of this country’s original sin,” he argued, adding that Kaepernick should, “still love America, he should love America for being given his right to do this, to make a stand.”
Back in July, racial inequality in America was also addressed in the annual ESPYs Award Show. The event recognizes the top athletes on and off the field from the past year, as well as top plays. At the beginning of the show, star basketball players Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, and Lebron James took the stage to voice their opinions on racial inequality. James was blunt with the kind of support he expected from athletes.
He advocated for all professional athletes to “educate” themselves, and to “explore these issues, speak up, use our influence and renounce all violence.” He added that they, as athletes, should, “go back to our communities, invest our time, our resources, help rebuild them, help strengthen them, help change them. We all have to do better.”
Connolly also agreed that the player’s approach was very “respectable.” “The ESPYs speech tried to get everyone to come together and I definitely respect the players involved for addressing the issue in that forum,” Connolly said.
He also commented North as a whole, explaining that “our school doesn’t go about things with race being a factor. Our school has respect for our differences no matter the religion, faith, intellect, of the person. The school supports everyone.”
Junior Almonte Henk, a member of the football and basketball teams, believes that was the fundamental reason for the football team locking arms in its public display.
“After the whole confederate flag incident, we felt like the school was divided and we just wanted to bring everybody together and we think that locking arms showed unity.” Neville added, “It showed everyone came together and got behind the stand, not just black students.”
According to Henk, people in the Newton North community need to embrace the challenge of addressing racial inequality. Henk explained that people must “raise awareness, show support, and be unified,” adding that “no matter what happens, we are still going to be together as a community and a school.”