Colin Kaepernick sparked a revolution across the country the day he decided to kneel during the national anthem. Now, schools are benching some of their best players because they, too, are trying to make a statement.
At Lansing Catholic School, a private Michigan educational institution, at least four athletes are being kept from playing against Ionia because they expressed intent to kneel the moment that the national anthem begins to play.
During practice Thursday, Lansing’s quarterback Michael Lynn III along with captains Matthew Abdullah, Kabbash Richards, and Roje Williams were told they were not going to be allowed to play in the next day’s game.
While Lynn said he knows the school has the right to set its own policies, he can’t help but feel he’s being penalized for having his own opinions.
“I get they are a private school and they can do what they want," the student told reporters. "They are right, they can. But that doesn’t make it humane and that does not make it OK that they can do that because that still is my right to peaceful protest. Not only am I peaceful protesting, but I’m protesting as a primary source. I am a young black man in America. I’ve had to deal with certain things that other people will never have to deal with.”
After talking to school officials about his plans to take a knee, he explained that their reaction “feels like oppression.”
“This feels like you’re trying to silence me and it feels like you’re not giving me the right to do what Americans should be able to do," he told the school.
According to a letter about the incident sent to parents on Thursday, Lansing Catholic School made it a policy to discipline any student who takes a knee during the national anthem.
“[W]e will continue to hold our student-athletes to the expectation that they stand for our National Anthem,” President Tom Maloney wrote.
“Any student-athlete who chooses not to stand will receive consequences. As always, this will be handled with Christian Charity, with the goal of growth in virtue.”
While the letter also states that the school is aware of the importance of allowing peaceful protests to take place, Maloney added that school athletic events should not be used as a venue for protests.
Stating that “children’s safety is our first priority,” Maloney concluded that allowing for protests during school events would “create an unsafe situation for any student involved.”
Lynn’s father, Michael Lynn Jr., told reporters that his son is acting out of his own willingness to do good and that he won’t stop until he can make his voice heard.
“After dealing with everything he's dealt with at Lansing Catholic and in his life and everything he's worried about for himself and other brothers of color, he said, 'I have to do something and this is what I want to do,'” he explained. “And he said, 'I want to use my platform as a public figure in this city to get the word out and to make that stand.' He's been steadfast in it even knowing the discipline actions.”
Like Kaepernick, the four Lansing students are being punished for being very public about their unhappiness with a government that regularly and systematically punishes people of color.
Without having access to venues where they can display their outrage to a greater number of people, they may not be able to raise as much awareness as they could if they were allowed to protest openly.
While Michael Lynn III is correct in stating that the school has the right to set its own policies, this action may effectively curtail the young athlete’s willingness to speak out, as he may see fewer incentives to be open about his politics in the future.
Hopefully, the media attention that he and his teammates are receiving will help to amplify their message, similarly to how the NFL's mistreatment of Kaepernick helped to boost his voice, bringing the nation to his side.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports