Third grade football team kneels in protest against police brutality in America
Back in August 2016, Colin Kaepernick courted some significant controversy when he refused to adhere to one of the NFL's oldest traditions.
Before every game, it's customary for both football teams competing to stand for the national anthem, but on this occasion, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback refused, citing the mistreatment of people of colour as a primary reason for his controversial protest.
Kaepernick's decision to kneel for the Star-Spangled Banner gained significant traction in American sport, but fast forward a year, and the 29-year-old is now a free agent, struggling to find a team for which to ply his trade. There's plenty of rumour that his oft-discussed protests are the reason Kaepernick's career is currently on the backburner, but at least he can count on the support of a third-grade football team out in Belleville, Illinois.
Last Sunday before their football game, Cahokia Quarterback Club - a team made up of 25 boys aged eight and under - kneeled for the national anthem alongside their coach, Orlando Gooden. According to Gooden, the boys asked him if he had seen the recent protests out in St Louis, Missouri.
"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?'" Gooden said, and when the boy replied, his answer was pretty emphatic: “Because black people are getting killed and nobody’s going to jail.”
The St Louis riots occurred in the aftermath of a not-guilty verdict handed down St Louis law enforcement officer Jason Stockley, who shot and killed Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011 after allegedly saying he was going to "kill this motherf****r".
Gooden felt there was a teachable moment in the wake of the acquittal. He used the case to talk to the boys about Lamar's case and others similar in the United States at the moment, and used Colin Kaepernick's actions as one of the examples of protests. Apparently, one of the young boys asked if they could follow in Kaepernick's footsteps.
"I said, ‘As long as we know why we are doing it, I don’t have a problem with any of it.’ What I teach my kids is love, integrity, honesty, fairness, respect and boundaries ... As long as I have support of my parents and team, I’m perfectly fine, and I’m covered under the First Amendment to peacefully protest and assemble."
The boys' actions were indeed supported by their parents, and although Gooden's wife was on the end of some comments on social media, it's safe to say that the Cahokia Quarterback Club's movement was a success.
Since Colin Kaepernick's controversial stance both on and off the field, at least 223 black people met their ends at the hands of law enforcement, and although the Black Lives Matter movement helped to raise awareness about the plights surrounding people of colour, it's clear we've still got some way to go.
Colin Kaepernick may struggle to find a NFL team in the near future for whatever reason, but it's good to see that his message has not been forgotten, not least by this Illinois-based third-grade football team.