A football team of eight-year-old children in Illinois decided to take a knee during the national anthem to show their support for protests in St. Louis over the acquittal of a white police officer who was accused of killing a black man following a car chase in 2011.
The team’s coach, Orlando Gooden, said that he was having a discussion with the team about the protests during practice.
“One of the kids brought it up and asked, ‘What’s going on in St. Louis? Why are they demonstrating and rioting?'” Gooden told the Belleville News-Democrat. “He’s just an 8-year-old baby and he’s asking me why they are doing it. I felt it was a teaching opportunity. As a coach and adult, it’s your role to protect those that are weaker and to enlighten them when you can.”
One of the kids told Gooden: “Because black people are getting killed and nobody’s going to jail,” Fox 2 St. Louis reported.
The discussion led to the topic of professional football player Colin Kaepernick and how he knelt during the national anthem last year to protest racial injustice.
One of the kids asked if it was okay to kneel during the national anthem, to which Gooden replied: “What I teach my kids is love, integrity, honesty, fairness and respect for their boundaries.”
All of the parents on the team supported the decision for the kids to take a knee during the national anthem.
“As long as I have support of my parents and team, I’m perfectly fine, and I’m covered under the First Amendment to peacefully protest and assemble,” Gooden said.
“I told them kneeling is a show of respect, not for those who broke boundaries — I support only peaceful protest — but for the innocent lives that have been touched by injustice,” Gooden said.