Three kneel in protest; all kneel in prayer
by Stacey Cato
“They took a knee before the game, but they also took a knee after the game to pray and show sportsmanship with their team, coaches and their opponents.”
That’s what local resident C. Mac Labat said on social media after the controversy that erupted during last Friday night’s football game at Tank Williams Field in Bay St Louis.
It was the Pirates versus the Tigers. All the Bay High players stood for the National Anthem, while some Pass High players took a knee.
The peaceful, silent protest first gained national attention in August 2016 when it touched down on football fields all across the country. Many athletes from Pee Wee players to the NFL superstars have mirrored former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s actions to bring awareness to racial oppression and allegations of police brutality.
While those who have participated in the protest see taking a knee as a powerful weapon to get their point across, others view it as disrespectful to the Stars and Stripes and demeaning to those who fought for our nation’s freedoms.
The approach, many say, has become divisive and the mes-sage lost amid so much controversy.
Kaepernick and fellow football player Eric Reid say they couldn’t help but take notice of the many unarmed black men who had been killed by the police around the country. One particular incident which hit close to home for Reid, whose hometown is Baton Rouge, LA, was the killing of Alton Sterling, Reid said in a special op-ed he wrote for the New York Times, “That’s when my faith moved me to take action. I looked to James 2:17, which states, ‘Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.’” Reid said. “I knew I needed to stand up for what is right.”
After careful discussion with Kaepernick on how the two could take part in making a more powerful and positive impact on the social justice movement, Reid said in his article, they decided to take advantage of the platform provided to them by being professional athletes in the NFL to speak for those who are voice-less.
Reid said they even solicited advice from retired Green Beret and former NFL player Nate Boyer before coming to the conclusion that they should kneel, because to them it’s a respectful gesture.
“I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy,” Reid said.
The Pass Christian High School players who decided to join in on the protest Friday night have received a mixture of support and backlash, from being belittled with racial slurs on social media to being called high school heroes.
Pass Christian resident and business owner Brandon Necaise took to Facebook, like many others, with his thoughts after the protest that was captured in photos and went viral Friday night.
Unlike Labat, Necaise does not support taking a knee while paying tribute to Old Glory.
“I was born a Pirate and want my kids to go through the same system that I went through!” Necaise said. “This is a disgrace to the community!”
However, Necaise praised the boys for gathering in unity while kneeling in prayer after the game.
“We are one! Stand Together-Pray Together,” he said.
Pass Christian School Dis-trict Superintendent Dr. Carla Evers told The Gazebo Ga-zette, “Whereas we honor and understand that as Americans we have a constitutional right to peaceful protest, we do not feel that Friday Night Football is the appropriate place or time for such action.”
One mother on social media said she received a surprising perspective from her daughter.
“I asked Molly, who is eight and plays several sports, what it means to ‘take a knee.’ Her answer: ‘It’s what you are supposed to do when someone is hurt. It shows that you care, and that you want them to get better, or be okay.’
“I then asked her what she thought it meant that some of the players in the NFL knelt during the National Anthem. Her response: ‘I guess they think that our country is hurt, and they are hoping that it will get better.’”
“Maybe the problem isn’t a lack of respect,” the mother said. “Maybe you are choosing not to see that these are men who are saying that our country is hurting, and they are hoping it gets better.”