All of the young players on the Cahokia Quarterback Club football team kneeled when the national anthem played before their game in Belleville, Illinois, on Sunday.
The team — made up of boys 8-years-old and younger — actually made the decision to kneel on their own.
“One of the kids asked me if I saw (people) protesting and rioting in St. Louis. I said ‘yes,’ I said, ‘Do you know why they are doing it?'” Coach Orlando Gooden recounted, according to Fox 2 Now.
One of Gooden’s players reportedly replied, “Because black people are getting killed, and nobody’s going to jail.”
Gooden’s players were aware of the recent controversial verdict in the case against St. Louis officer Jason Stockley in the 2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith and the uproar it caused in Missouri and across the nation.
According to The Blaze, Cahokia is located just minutes south of St. Louis and across the Mississippi River, so the incident hits close to home for the young boys.
“I felt like it was a good teaching moment for me to circle the team up and have a brief meeting,” Gooden said, adding that he also used the opportunity to explain how this unpunished police brutality set former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest in motion.
“One of the kids asked, ‘Can we do that?’ Those were his words,” Gooden said. “And I said, ‘As long as we know why we’re doing it, I don’t have a problem with kneeling.’”
On Sunday, all 25 players and Gooden took one knee as “The Star-Spangled Banner” filled Little Devil’s Field. While their backs were also turned away from the flag, Gooden maintains that part was not done on purpose.
“What I teach my kids is love, integrity, honesty, fairness, respect … boundaries,” the coach said.
Additionally, Gooden had the support of his players’ parents to allow them to kneel. That, along with his protections under the First Amendment, allowed him to gracefully accept the inevitable backlash that came his way after videos of the players kneeling went viral.
“As long as I have support of my parents and team, I’m perfectly fine,” Gooden said, “and I’m covered under the First Amendment to peacefully protest and assemble.”
Prominent social justice activist Shaun King retweeted one of the videos of the children kneeling to his nearly 800,000 followers, expressing his support of their demonstration.
I'm so proud of these young brothers.— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) September 19, 2017
They're just 7 & 8 years old, near St. Louis, and opted to take a knee during the National Anthem pic.twitter.com/UgGLDJKK3o
With the exception of a few right-wing trolls, the response to the clip was mostly positive with other Twitter users praising the fact that these children are being taught about social justice at an early age.
Social consciousness knows no age limit, and these children deserve applause for taking a stand, on their own, against the hate and injustice that plagues the communities they're growing up in.
Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Jnn13