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Football players kneel to raise awareness for racial injustice

Football+players+Jason+Myers%2C+Donovan+Davis%2C+James-Lightsey+Lawerence%2C+Brylen+Buchaum%2C+and+Mike+Mason+kneeling+during+the+national+anthem+at+the+homecoming+game+on+Thursday%2C+Oct.+12.+Photo+credit%3A+Emma+Dimaggio
Football players Jason Myers, Donovan Davis, James-Lightsey Lawerence, Brylen Buchaum, and Mike Mason kneeling during the national anthem at the homecoming game on Thursday, Oct. 12. Photo credit: Emma Dimaggio

Football players Jason Myers, Donovan Davis, James-Lightsey Lawerence, Brylen Buchaum, and Mike Mason kneeling during the national anthem at the homecoming game on Thursday, Oct. 12. Photo credit: Emma Dimaggio

Football players Jason Myers, Donovan Davis, James-Lightsey Lawerence, Brylen Buchaum, and Mike Mason kneeling during the national anthem at the homecoming game on Thursday, Oct. 12. Photo credit: Emma Dimaggio

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As the national anthem pours out of the loudspeakers, seven players solemnly take a knee. Many crouch with eyes closed, surrounded by their fellow players, standing.

Since quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee to bring awareness to police brutality and racial injustice over a year ago, many football players have followed suit in support of his message, including players at EC.

“I take a knee to let people know that there are things going on in the world that are not fair for people of color,” Taylor Flowers, EC football player, said.

Multiple EC football players knelt at homecoming game on Thursday, Oct. 12, in support of this message. James Lightesy-Lawrence, Donovan Davis, Mike Mason, Brylen Baucham and Jason Myers were amongst the players who knelt with Flowers.

“I don’t want anybody to think that we’re taking a knee to disrespect the military or anything like that,” Flowers said. “My grandfather served so it’s nothing like that.”

After President Donald Trump called out the NFL for allowing players for supposedly disrespecting the flag by kneeling, the movement gained momentum. Though the controversy behind kneeling has created a divide, players feel that they have been met, for the most part, with support.

“Our coach respects what we stand for. He knows we’re not doing it in a disrespectful manner. We just want people to be aware of what’s going on,” Flowers said.

However, there have been some exceptions. At a game hosted at Cal State Bakersfield, EC football players were booed for kneeling during the national anthem.

“I took a knee and a couple of my fellow teammates took a knee and there was a lot of woofing in the stands, a lot of people going, ‘Stand up.’ Little things like that, but I don’t let it get to me,” Flowers said.

Four calls to Bakersfield head coach Jeff Chudy and assistant coach offensive coordinator Carl Dean were unanswered and unreturned.

Some players choose not to kneel during the national anthem, but their reasons are not all the same.

Okwes Nwaelleh, an EC football player and international student from Canada, feels that it’s not his place to take a side and kneel during the games.

“I definitely do have an opinion on it, but I don’t think it’s really fair for me to protest. It’s not really my place,” Nwaelleh said. “But I support my teammates and my brothers who do it. I’m definitely not against it.”

Coach Gifford Lindheim believes that kneeling is just one way of many that players can protest inequality and racial injustice.

“I think whether you’re a football player, whether you’re a non-athlete, whether you’re a fan, I think that everybody has a different opinion of what the protest should look like,” Lindheim said. “There’s a lot of discussion internally and in the public eye about the right way to deal with the issue of inequality.”

Whether or not bystanders agree with their form of protest, Lindheim believes that bringing up the issue can make a positive impact.

“These are the questions of our times,” Lindheim said. “I don’t think you can run from them, or should run from them, but you should take time to have meaningful dialogue about it.”

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Football players kneel to raise awareness for racial injustice