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Race + Racism

KING: After Taking a Knee, Young Boys Saw their Football Coach Suspended then their Whole Season Canceled

Members of the Texas youth football team, the Beaumont Bulls, take a knee to "protest violence against black youth" during the national anthem before a Sept. 10 game. (APRIL PARKERSON)


All over the country, young people continue to take a knee during the Star Spangled Banner to protest police brutality and racial injustice in America. For them, perhaps because the world has not yet squeezed out all of their hope and optimism, or maybe because they know they have far more time left on this earth than 70-year-old Donald Trump, they each feel like taking a knee is a risk worth taking. Beautifully, they still believe this country can change. Hell, that's what we taught them — the United States has had high highs and low lows, but after real struggles, it can change.

Disturbingly, perhaps no young athletes in America have paid the price for this demonstration like the young 11 and 12-year-old boys of the Beaumont Bulls football team in Beaumont, Texas. Situated between Houston to the west and Lafayette, Louisiana to the east, Beaumont is one of the many Texas towns which lives and breathes football. Many families in Beaumont have now been playing the game for generations. It's what you do.

So, when the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided during the NFL preseason to not stand for national anthem, it didn't take long for the echoes to be heard in Beaumont. Students, coaches, and parents there not only follow the league closely, but feel like the plight of injustice in America is their own. Police brutality, wrongful arrests and racial violence plague black folk in Texas and Louisiana. Within days of Kaepernick staging his protest, the coaching staff of the Beaumont Bulls, led by head coach Rah-Rah Barber, privately discussed the possibility them taking a knee before their next game, before ultimately deciding against it. The coaches didn't want to impose anything on the players. To their surprise, though, the young boys came to them and told them they wanted to take a knee. The shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of police just two months prior had not only shaken Kaepernick and the Beaumont Bulls coaching staff, they deeply bothered the young students as well.

So, on Sept. 10, after getting permission from league officials, the staff and students of the Beaumont Bulls football team took a knee before their game. They won 27-0 and garnered national attention for their demonstration. Within 24 hours, the kids and their families began receiving death threats and racist taunts both online and off. The executive board of the team and the league issued strong statements of support backing the boys, but within a few days it all began eroding.

With very little explanation, in spite of the previous support, the Beaumont Bulls students, staff, and parents were told by their executive board not to take a knee in their following game on Sept. 17, but they defied the request and did it anyway. Again, they won their game, and the team was unified, but the bottom was about to fall out. The boys were scheduled to have a bye the following week. During that time, the executive board made a decision that shocked the whole league. They suspended Coach Rah-Rah Barber, who was not only a great coach, but a mentor and hero to many of the boys, for the rest of the season.


San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (l.) and quarterback Blaine Gabbert take a knee during the national anthem. (TIMOTHY T. LUDWIG/USA TODAY SPORTS)


The board, in an email obtained by Bleacher Report, denied that the coach's suspension was due to the protests — instead blaming the situation on Barber's removing a player and coach from the team and an improperly distributed text message.

Many parents, speaking directly to the Daily News, communicated that they were banned from the team and told that while their sons would be allowed to continue playing if they wanted to, the parents were no longer allowed to attend games, practices, or events. If they did, they would be arrested.

Instead of supporting the boys and their protests, the executive board abandoned them. It was a devastating and extreme move to make. Speaking to Adam Harris of the Bleacher Report, an assistant coach for the team, Alfred Dean, who is also a six-year Army veteran, said of Coach Barber, "He really cares about these kids. What people don't realize is that we're not getting paid for this."

Coach Dean, who had also taken a knee with the team, decided it was just too much and submitted his resignation. Understandably, the players were crushed. They wanted to continue the protest, but wanted to continue playing the game they love as well, but were left without their leaders. So, they decided to do the only thing they truly knew to do, they protested the firing of Coach Barber by not attending their next practice until he was brought back on board.


Donald Trump has been fueling the mean-spirited fire among American adults. (JULIO CORTEZ/AP)


Determined to play a game of chicken with these young boys, the executive board decided that instead of reinstating the coaches and allowing the protests, they'd simply cancel the rest of the season — and that's exactly what they did, the parents say. The Beaumont Bulls, in spite of paying fees for a full season, and being in the league playoff race, had the rug pulled out from under them. No sports team in the country has faced this much opposition in response to Star Spangled Banner protests.

These young boys and their coaches are heroes. Millions of people all over the world have seen their photos and read about their demonstration. Colin Kaepernick himself proudly shared their story on social media and communicated to the team that he supported them.

That adults have now canceled their season, and denied these young boys a chance to fight on, is a travesty. It's gravely immature and short-sighted of team and league officials to allow it all to go down like this. What lessons does this teach the kids? What has it taught them about their right to protest? What has it taught them about quitting or playing through adversity?

It's not too late. While the whole thing is a mess, the team and the league still has time to reinstate Coaches Barber and Dean, apologize to the boys and their parents, and allow them to finish their season with dignity. I was about to say that this would require the adults to act like adults, but I'm afraid that that's what messed the whole thing up in the first place. Adults today are too often petty and mean-spirited. Just take a look at our presidential race. Instead, we need the adults in this situation to stop thinking about their egos and think instead of the young boys of the Beaumont Bulls. Salvaging their season should be the top priority right now. Anything short of that would be a failure.

Boys — you've done well. You were right to take a knee for injustice. You were right to follow the lead of so many NFL players. You were right to keep doing it even when they told you not to. You did not create this mess. It's not your fault. I am incredibly proud of each and every one of you.


See original article at NY Daily News


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