No Widespread Policy on National Anthem Protests at NH High Schools
Pro football players made a widespread showing of their personal political opinions at the start of Sunday's National Football League games, and with the football season in towns and cities across New Hampshire in full swing, the question arises whether local athletes will follow suit.
Several NFL players made very visible protests while the National Anthem was played before games started Sunday, kneeling or choosing to stay off the field until game time. Players, some with support of team owners, made the move to put a spotlight on their perception of inequality and social injustice. The move Sunday surprised many, and prompted feedback from President Donald Trump, who chastised the protesting players, though the condemnation was not universal.
More football is scheduled for tonight, when the Arizona Cardinals host the Dallas Cowboys at 8:30 for Monday Night Football. The issue will have a week to simmer as high schools across the Granite State prepare for another round of Friday night and weekend games.
"It's the First Amendment," said Jeffery Collins, the director of the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athetic Association which oversees high school athletics in the state. "The NHIAA doesn't have an official stance on it. I would imagine if the student athlete was allowed to do that, we'll support that student and support our schools."
Photo - Students stand for the National Anthem at the Bow vs. Plymouth football game Sept. 23.
The act of kneeling in protest stems most recently from Colin Kaepernick's move early in the 2016 season. The then-quarterback for the San Fransisco 49ers did not rise for the anthem and afterward he and other players began kneeling in protest.
"Obviously it's the student’s choice in the classroom and the athletic field," said Kevin O'Brien, the athletic director at Merrimack Valley High School in Penacook. MVHS student Samuel Alicea took a knee himself three times during the 2016 football season. Reaction at the time locally was mixed.
"I didn't get any phone calls about it," O'Brien said. "As far as I'm concerned, it is not different from the classroom, and I don't think it's too prevalent in the classroom."
Collins said not standing during the National Anthem does not go against any guidelines set forth by the National Federation of High Schools, which the NHIAA follows.
"I think it's a shame people are using their professional athlete status to make a political statement," said Lisa Gingras, athletic director for Nashua High School North and Nashua High School South. "I hope it doesn't affect our high school games."
"Whatever views you have, it's your opinion,” Gingras said. "A lot of people have lost their lives to have the country be as free as it is.”