Every single child and coach of the Cahokia Quarterback Club football team (8 and under) took a knee during the national anthem ahead of Sunday’s game at Little Devil’s Field in Belleville., KTVI-TV reported.
The entire team of 8-year-old football players and their coaches took a knee during the national anthem in Illinois on Sunday as a demonstration of solidarity with St. Louis protesters.
“One of the kids asked me, did I see them protesting and rioting in St. Louis,” Orlando Gooden, coach of the Cahokia Quarterback Club, told the station. “I said, ‘Yes … do you know why they are doing it?’”
One of the players answered, “Because black people are getting killed, and nobody’s going to jail,” Gooden recalled to the station.
Gooden — a former University of Missouri football player, KTVI reported — said his players knew that a white former St. Louis police officer was acquitted of murder Friday in a 2011 fatal shooting of a black man after a car chase. Cahokia is a just handful of minutes south of St. Louis and across the Mississippi River. (Trending: Trump Right Again: Black Lives Matter protesters in Charlottesville cover Thomas Jefferson statue)
“I felt like it was a good teaching moment for me to circle the team up and have a brief meeting,” Gooden told the station, adding that he explained why former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner” last season.
“One of the kids asked, ‘Can we do that?’ Those were his his words,” Gooden said to KTVI. “And I said, ‘As long as we know why we’re doing it, I don’t have a problem with kneeling.’”
With that, all 25 players took a knee during the national anthem at Little Devil’s Field.
Their backs were away from the flag, the station said, but Gooden said that wasn’t on purpose.
“What I teach my kids is love, integrity, honesty, fairness, respect … boundaries,” he told KTVI.
All the parents of the players supported their kids taking a knee, the station said, but a Facebook post by Gooden’s wife was hit with some backlash. (Trending: Man Yelled “Black Lives Matter!” While Attacking Police Officer at Traffic Stop)
“As long as I have support of my parents and team, I’m perfectly fine,” the coach told KTVI, “and I’m covered under the First Amendment to peacefully protest and assemble.”
Gooden also told the station that he doesn’t see a need for his players to continue kneeling before games — that it was done once, and a lesson resulted.
The coach said he explained why former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the anthem, to protest racial injustice in America, and the kids asked if they could do the same.
“I said, ‘As long as we know why we’re doing it, I don’t have a problem with any of it,’ ” Mr. Gooden said. (Trending: Shaun King of Black Lives Matter: Christianity is ‘white supremacy disguised as religion’)
The coach said the children came up with the protest on their own and that he didn’t sway them one way or the other. Video taken Sunday, obtained by the Belleville News-Democrat, showed every single player and two coaches kneeling on the field as someone sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” over the loudspeaker. Parents in attendance reportedly supported the gesture.
“I know some of the people talk and speak as if I told the kids to turn around and that. I didn’t,” Mr. Gooden told the News-Democrat. “They brought up the subject and led the discussion. I feel like once a child shows interest in a topic, you have to talk to them and teach them what you can.
“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,” he said. (Related: VIDEO: Where Is The Outrage? Where is BLM? Black On Black Crime — 3 Teens Beat Up Disabled Boy Outside Target)