The tension between players kneeling during the national anthem in silent protest of racial and social injustice and those who disagree with the protesters has been well-publicized in the NFL since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first knelt last season.
That tension made its way to the local high school level Thursday evening, when volleyball players from Cristo Rey Jesuit — a private school in Minneapolis — knelt during the playing of the national anthem before a match at North Lakes Academy, a charter school in the Twin Cities northern suburb of Forest Lake.
Cam Stottler, executive director of North Lakes Academy, said Friday afternoon that some adult fans in attendance shouted at the kneeling to players to “stand up” and said “not in our house.”
“It made for an emotionally charged game,” Stottler said of the match, which North Lakes won in four sets. “We are very proud of how our student-athletes, students and coaches responded. It’s disappointing that any negative response would come from (players kneeling).”
The Forest Lake Times, which first reported on the story and had a reporter at the match, similarly described the scene as “emotional” and “highly charged.”
Stottler said he has communicated with everyone in the school community about Thursday’s incident, reinforcing the North Lakes code of conduct that requires those in attendance at school events to contribute in a positive way.
Robert Carpentier, the athletic director at Cristo Rey Jesuit, said on Friday that most if not all of the school’s volleyball players had been kneeling during the national anthem, with their hands on their hearts, before every match this season without previously hearing any negative feedback from other teams or fans.
They’re not the only local school or team that has participated in anthem protests this year. Players from several metro area football teams, including those from Cooper, have knelt or otherwise demonstrated during the anthem this season.
Carpentier described Cristo Rey Jesuit as being “primarily made up of students of color,” many of whom are “economically under-resourced.”
The school’s coaches and administrators, he said, have had conversations with student-athletes about reasons for protesting dating back to last year, when several girls’ soccer players knelt during the playing of the national anthem before a game.
“We have players of all ethnicities on the volleyball team,” Carpentier said. “My personal perspective is that we all want to teach kids to advocate for themselves. Our school policy is that as long as they are respectful and reasonable we respect their rights.”
Stottler, who was not at the match, said North Lakes Academy issued an apology to Cristo Rey Jesuit.
“There was a level of embarrassment that was relayed to me by the coaches,” he said.