Waggener Football: Taking a Knee to Take A Stand

09/23/2016 02:09 PM

When Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem, the country took notice. Athletes from across the country, spanning from high school to the pros decided to follow in suit, protesting injustice in America.

Waggener High School has a 3-1 record, but they made headlines when a photo of one player taking a knee during the national anthem before a game against Shawnee surfaced.

“We weren’t planning on it and I told him at halftime when I found out, I said ‘look man, I’m not mad at you that you did it,’ I said my only concern is that that picture makes it look like you’re by yourself,” Waggener’s head coach Jordan Johnson explained.

Coach Johnson said that his players had discussed taking a knee, but typically they aren’t even on the field during the anthem, it was by accident that particular day. Jones told the players to hold off and come to a decision as a team. He explained that the message didn’t make it all the way down the line to junior RB/LB Tre Chappell.

Like Kaepernick, some took Tre’s silent protest as a sign of disrespect to the flag and anthem.

“That was not his intention at all so it upset him that people were thinking that about him, because he really is a great kid that does the right things, so for people to be frustrated with him- it bothered him. So he was like ‘coach, we’re not doing that during the national anthem’,” Johnson said.

The Wildcats pride themselves on being a team- a brotherhood. The team decided as a whole to take a knee during their first play of the following game, taking a penalty against Atherton. During the anthem they locked arms, displaying a united front.

“The frustrating part is even when we did it differently and we do it not in front of the flag and not during the anthem, people are still frustrated and people are still saying that I should be fired and saying that he should be kicked off the team and that we’re a bunch of thugs,” Johnson added. “But it really brings out the racism that is really there. They’re not really offended that we did it. They’re just offended who did it.”

Chappell has received support from some. He was not interviewed by cn|2 because the negative attention from this has gone so far as death threats for the players and coaches.

“I got an email from some guy that is from Pennsylvania I think. But he just said that if he saw me in public he’d kill me,” Johnson said.

Unlike Kaepernick, this is not something Waggener plans to continue. It never was.

“It was our hope that if we did it during a time that was not during the anthem, that people would be able to listen to us and kind of the anger would leave the situation, so we could have discussions and do different things. Our plan is not to do anything else. Our plan is to start raising awareness, start having discussions. Hosting some events here at the school that kind of bring attention to these things and see if we can make a chance and put some of this stuff into action,” Johnson explained.

The team has conversations about race and injustice and two football players formed a Black Student Union at Waggener. They are having a community discussion with a police officer at the school, and for now when they’re on the field, they hope the conversation is about their play.

“We mean nothing but the best and we just want these guys to be able to express themselves and hopefully make a change for these things they have to deal with,” Johnson said.

Waggener takes on Louisville Central Friday night at 7:30 p.m.


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