Even before this weekend’s tweets by President Donald Trump calling for the firings of NFL players who kneel during the national anthem, Ohio high school athletes have taken up the gesture to protest racism and shootings by police.
“It has happened quite a bit,” said Tim Stried, director of communications for the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Stried said OHSAA policy is to ask for spectators and athletes to rise and face the flag for the national anthem.
“However, similar to the collegiate and professional ranks, there is no penalty if that policy is not followed,” he said. “That of course ties into the freedom of speech and freedom of expression that our country is blessed to have.”
Last year, a student football player at Brunswick High School in Northeast Ohio knelt during the anthem, saying he did so after hearing teammates use a racial slur. Students on Cincinnati’s Withrow High School football team raised their fists while the Star-Spangled Banner played. In Dayton, a coach joined Dunbar High School students who knelt and raised their hands.
The OHSAA has heard from coaches, administrators and officials looking for guidance on how they should respond, Stried said.
Parents have written in, too.
“There are some folks that are outraged when that happens during the anthem, and there are some that ignore it, and there are some that don’t mind it, and there are some that support it,” he said.
As for advice on how to respond, Stried said he hopes coaches talk with their teams.
“That’s probably the most important thing, is that coaches talk about it with their team,” he said. “So there’s no surprises, and that they are supportive of each other and that they’re there for each other.”