Local high school football players join the Kaepernick protest

At least three Syracuse students took a knee during a pre-game national anthem last week.

Three Nottingham High School football players knelt during the national anthem before a game in Auburn last Friday, joining the silent protest started by Colin Kaepernick to raise awareness about injustices against people of color.

“We know what we stand for, or kneel for,” said senior linebacker Jakev Jackson, who raised his fist and bowed his head as three of his teammates knelt on the ground.

Nottingham High School junior Quentin Lawrence knelt during the national anthem at a recent football game.

Although he initially aspired to be a professional football player, Jackson said that the everyday racism he has experienced and the injustices committed against minorities have inspired him to aim to pursue a degree in government, so that he can improve race relations.

“America stands for freedom and peace and justice, but not everyone gets that,” Jackson said. “Once everyone in the country gets equality: that’s when America would become a great country.”

To this, Syracuse University alum and former NFL player Derell Smith said the players' actions show courage, as long as they also consider the effects on their future careers.

“Kaepernick can do what he does because he is who he is,” Smith said. “Every week, he donates $100,000 to the cause. I would always advise young players to get where they need to be in order to do what they wish to do.”

Junior Nottingham player Quentin Lawrence, who knelt during the anthem, stands by his decision. He said that he faced discrimination within the school system itself, and tried to report it through the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) but never found justice.

“In the Baldwinsville School District, I was called a n----- by multiple students and teachers," Lawrence said. "But DASA was used to protect those that used this word against me. Rulings and punishments were minimal."

Lawrence said he and the other Nottingham High School protesters plan to expand their efforts and do more to stand up for minority rights. Until then, they will continue their protest on the field. 

“You should not assume the worst about kids who can change the world.”

Top photo by Bryan Cereijo for Syracuse.com.

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