Entire High School Football Team Kneels During National Anthem in an Act of 'True Courage,' Says Coach
"This was never to be a disrespectful protest," coach Joey Thomas tells PEOPLE
The Colin Kaepernick effect isn’t just spreading across NFL stadiums.
On Friday night, the entire Garfield High School football team in Seattle, Washington, took a knee on the sideline during the national anthem.
“They said, ‘Coach, we want to knee’ and they talked among themselves as a team,” coach Joey Thomas tells PEOPLE. “I am so proud we have shown the nation what true courage is.”
Facing the flag, the players and staff knelt together, one hand on the next person’s shoulder, according to KIRO.
“This is beautiful and why I love the world we live in,” says Thomas, who also admits that they’ve since received negative comments about their decision. “They talked about stereotypes and how they feel in school and I was trying to help these kids problem-solve.”
“This was never to be a disrespectful protest,” he also says.
Half a dozen players from West Seattle, Garfield’s opponent, knelt as well.
“I don’t know if they really understand why they’re doing it,” West Seattle parent Donna Vennhuizen told KIRO. “I feel that they’re just emulating the professional players they’ve seen do it.”
The demonstration comes after numerous professional athletes followed the lead of the 49ers quarterback, who first sat and then later kneeled during the anthem before preseason games.
Kaepernick says he did it as a silent protest against racial injustice.
Athletes from other sports are following his lead as well.
Megan Rapinoe from the United States women’s national team once again knelt during the national anthem before their game on Sunday.
“Obviously there were boos tonight, boos and cheers tonight. I totally respect that,” she told ESPN. “People feel a certain way, and I want to be respected for the way that I feel. I think that’s their right to do that. I totally understand that. That said, there’s some people that support me.”
Reporting by ROSE MINUTAGLIO