For the second straight season, the West Bladen varsity foodball team watched as the opponent showed a tremendous amount of disrespect. In short, they may as well have been mooning.
Last year, it was Union High that allowed some of its players to kneel a-la-Kaepernick style during the playing of the national anthem. The display was roundly criticized —including in an editorial here — and, I assume, the team was told in no uncertain terms by the school’s administration that it would not happen again. I assume that because it didn’t happen again.
Just this past Friday, it was South Robeson that allowed its players — and cheereaders — to pull the stunt, with a twist. This time, the players remained in the locker room while the cheerleaders all took a knee.
What was West Bladen doing?
“Players and cheereaders stood shoulder to shoulder like well-behaved ladies and gentlemen,” Knights coach Kris WIlliams said.
And therein is the perfect dictionary definition between pitiful and class.
But here is the twist of the knife: the Robeson County school district, through a directive from its interim superintendent to all athletics directors, gave students at South Robeson and all county schools the right to protest. So go ahead middle-schoolers … take a knee.
Let me first say the cause for protest may be valid. But I don’t like what the NFL players — and soon enough the NBA players — are doing. Nor do I think it is actually accomplishing anything substantial. My first question to any of the kneelers would be: What are you doing when nobody is watching? That would be followed by: Did you cast a ballot in the last election? I would think the answers would be “nothing” and “no.”
But now we are talking about teenagers who are notorious for being swayed by peer pressure and social experiments. They probably think they are being adult by doing a Kaepernick. Further, most if not all have no idea what exactly they are protesting — which is reason enough to stop the show.
And we know none of these youngsters have ever cast a ballot, so there is nothing at all they could be doing to illicit social change on any of the issues.
There is a reason teenagers under the age of 18 aren’t allowed to drink or vote or smoke and, in most cases, join the military. And protesting? If there is an in-school issue — like the unfair suspension of a teacher, a policy aimed at only certain students, lousy food, etc. — OK, a peaceful gathering on campus isn’t a bad thing to let their voices be heard.
In Fayetteville during the last school year, a teacher was suspended and his contract was not renewed after he stepped on an American flag as part of a class lecture — and students, then parents, complained. The resulting action was swift and correct.
So if teachers can’t disrespect our national flag during a class, why in God’s great name are students who barely have a real clue on national issues outside of “hey, this would be cool” allowed to disrespect our flag, country and veterans during a school event?
Schools legislate what students can do and not do all the time with dress codes and codes of conduct — each of which puts dents in their rights for individuality and freedom of speech. So why not insist these youngsters be respectful during a school event?
The Public Schools of Robeson County missed a terrific opportunity to create a teaching moment for its students who might actually want to know about the issues in question, why Kaepernick did what he did and what other athletes are trying to say. Surely there are classes where something like that could be done.
But the athetic field or school stage or cafeteria or anyplace else on campus is not the place to turn chiuldren loose to protest something they have little or no true understanding about.
I am impressed with both West Bladen and East Bladen for taking the high road during this Kaepernick Kraziness. And it is my hope the Bladen County Board of Education will not follow in the faulty footsteps of its Robeson County neighbors.
South Robeson, the Rowland community and all of Robeson County should be embarrassed by what the Mustang coaches, players and cheerleaders did last week. They all showed their backsides.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.