Football coaches at a Seattle high school joined their players in taking a knee during the national anthem, following the lead of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick to protest social injustice.
The entire Garfield High School football team and its coaching staff knelt during "The Star-Spangled Banner" before the Friday kickoff against West Seattle High School in Seattle. Several players from the other team also knelt.
It was the first time Garfield football players participated in the increasingly popular demonstration. West Seattle athletes began kneeling a week prior after getting approval from administration staff.
Joey Thomas, Garfield High's head coach, told Seattle media outlets his players have encountered either police brutality or racial profiling while also dealing with a racially divided school. He said his team won't have to kneel once people start addressing racial injustice.
"Everybody wants to talk about how this is disrespectful to the American flag," Thomas said. "That's a smokescreen. How about we talk about the issues people are kneeling and fighting for?"
West Seattle coach Tom Burggraff didn't kneel with his players Friday, but said he supports his players' freedom to protest.
Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers' backup quarterback, gained national attention when he refused to stand for the anthem before an NFL preseason game earlier this year.
His protest has since sparked similar demonstrations among athletes. Ranging from fellow NFL players to high school students, some athletes have decided to take a knee or link arms during the national anthem before sporting events