An Illinois football team comprised of eight-year-old children sparked controversy last week when all the players took a knee during the national anthem in a protest reminiscent of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The incident took place during a youth football team organized by the Cahokia Quarterback Club before Sunday’s game in Belleville, Fox News Insider reported.
“One of the kids asked me if I saw [people] protesting and rioting in St. Louis,” Coach Orlando Gooden told the local Fox affiliate. “I said yes. I said, ‘Do you know why they are doing it?’”
According to Gooden, the player responded: “Because black people are getting killed and nobody’s going to jail.”
“I felt like it was a good teaching moment for me to circle the team and have a meeting,” the coach said. He told the team how Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem last season to protest poor treatment of black people in the United States and one of the youngsters asked if they could “do that.”
Gooden told the kids that as long as they understood why they were kneeling, he would not stop them.
“What I teach my kids is love, integrity, honesty, fairness, respect and boundaries,” he said, claiming that the kids’ parents all supported the protest and noting that his and the team’s rights are protected under the First Amendment.
Sure enough, the entire team dropped to their knee when the national anthem began playing, and while their backs were away from the American flag, Gooden claims that that was unintentional.
The reception on social media to the team’s protest has been mixed, with a post by Gooden’s wife attracting some negative comments.
“My child would not be on his knee!” one angry user wrote. “I’m so sick and tired of this garbage! Parents get a handle on this nonsense now!”
Another person opined, “The coaches should be fired for allowing this!”