Pop superstar Rihanna made headlines this week when it was reported that she declined an invitation to perform at the Super Bowl because of her support for former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who regularly took a knee during the playing of the national anthem.
Kaepernick’s protest brought national attention to police brutality and other injustices in Black and minority communities.
Though less heralded, but arguably just as important, the Capital Christian Academy Red Tide, a high school football team of young African Americans in Prince George’s County, Maryland, has grabbed headlines for also taking a knee before games this year.
Established in 2013 as an African-American-operated prep school, Capital Christian Academy’s mission is to develop young men and women of moral integrity who will be responsible leaders and citizens in a diverse and ever-changing world.
“A lot of people love football,” said 17-year-old Josiah Gill. Gill and his teammates said they too want to bring light to the social issues facing African Americans.
“You have [people] coming from places to see you do something, and why not take a knee, why not do this to show we see what’s going on in the world?” said Gill, who had his own experience of being pulled over for driving while black.
In 2017, Gill and a teammate were pulled over by a police officer and when asked why, the officer reportedly told him that his music was too loud. He added that he and his teammates are taking a knee because of inequality as a whole.
“We’re aware of what’s going on in this country as young black males,” he said.
Coach Cornell Wade told NBC News how his players’ demonstration started.
“I hope you all know why,” Wade told his players without flinching. He asked them to think hard: “Are you doing this because you idolize the pro football players on TV? Or because the message behind the protest actually means something to you?”
“If you take a knee, it’s fine,” he said according to NBC News. “But do you understand the real ramifications? You might not just be offending the players on the other team. You might be offending the ref.”
Gill responded: “You got to be able to handle the adversity,” he told his teammates. They nodded and planned to talk with the rest of the team before making a final decision.
Before they were dismissed, Wade set two conditions: Every player must want to participate, and the team would have to kneel at every game.
“If you’re going to be with the fight, be with the fight,” Wade said.
And fight they have. To date the Red Storm have played to a 4-4 record, but Wade and Gill said the team has fought hard.
And, recognizing that kneeling has mistakenly been taken as an affront to the American military, the students can seek the counsel of their adviser, Addison Fair Jr., who not only serves as a volunteer coach but also served in the Marines.
Fair said he had his own bad experience with police in the past.
“I was in the Marine Corps, pulled over, stopped, was never told what I was stopped for, put on the ground on my face with my Marine Corps ID beside my head,” Fair said. “And the charge, the reason they stopped me: Suspicion. Because I was a young Black male with a nice car in Palmer Park, Maryland.”