High School Sports

Beamer High football players kneel during national anthem on Friday night

The trend of football players protesting social injustice during the national anthem trended into Friday Night Football.

Much of the Todd Beamer High football team kneeled during the national anthem before their game against Auburn Riverside on Friday in Auburn.

It comes after similar displays throughout the NFL last week.

“We talked about it in pregame that a year ago when Colin Kaepernick did it, it was a novelty. Now it feels like a movement,” Beamer coach Darren McKay said. “And our kids are watching and looking at some of those players in the NFL. I just talked to them about that it needs to be based on your life experiences and it needs to be something you choose to do and there couldn’t be any divide. If you choose to stand, you stand. If you choose to kneel, you kneel.”

McKay stood. The players were lined along the sideline, with those kneeling locking arms and those standing having their hand on their kneeling teammate’s shoulder.

Not too long after the final horn sounded to end the game, McKay had already got wind of community backlash.

“I’m always going to stand during the anthem because that’s what I believe is right,” McKay said. “But I’m not going to tell these players, especially with a team as diverse as we are, what they can or can’t try to express based on their own experiences. We try to understand that the guys sitting next to you come from different backgrounds and are raised differently, but we are all are very accepting of each other. We’re a team.”

Beamer is a Federal Way high school named for one of the passengers who fought back against hijackers of United Airlines Flight 93 during Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Some Auburn Riverside players knelt during last year’s game against Beamer and their act was met with chants of “USA, USA” from the opposing crowd. All of its players stood during the anthem.

Auburn Riverside’s coach, Bryant Thomas, said he thought the opposing team’s how of solidarity was awesome.

“I think when our soldiers go out to fight, they do it so we can have these rights, these first amendment rights,” said Thomas, a former Washington State University football player. “As an educator, it’s our job to support our kids, and that’s what (McKay) was doing and that’s what we’re doing, as well.

“(NFL) players deal with (social issues) on a professional level, but in the community, grass roots, that’s where you really deal with the problems, and our kids deal with them on a daily basis. They have a right to speak out about it and I’m glad that the coaching staff and their school and school district is willing to support their kids in doing so.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677