The team knelt together during the national anthem prior to their game last week. The team will continue to kneel in an effort to make their voices heard amid more shootings and racial injustices in America.
Garfield High’s football team knelt in unison during the playing of the national anthem before its 52-9 win against West Seattle last week. The Bulldogs unanimously voted to continue the on-field protest.
But that’s not all.
The team released a statement Wednesday detailing its position and plans to turn the demonstration into action. The players were further moved to elaborate their thoughts in light of two more shootings of black men by police officers in the past five days. Oklahoma officer Betty Shelby fatally shot Terence Crutcher, 40, on Friday – the same night Garfield took a knee during the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
“We have increasingly heavy hearts over various issues that have been escalating in the media,” the team wrote in the statement.
Garfield (3-0) plays at Chief Sealth (0-3) on Friday.
“The team has taken a powerful, united stance with the hope of being a catalyst for positive dialogue and change,” Garfield principal Ted Howard said in a released statement. “I commend them for their convictions and support their desire to be a catalyst for a better future. I ask our community to support our young people, our team and our leaders.”
Garfield football coach Joey Thomas, a former NFL player, teaches a college and career readiness course at the school called Project Mister. Through conversations with his team, academic opportunities are of equal concern as police brutality and crime in their communities.
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“We are asking for the community and our leaders to step forward to meet with us and engage in honest dialogue,” the team wrote. “It is our hope that out of these potentially uncomfortable conversations positive, impactful change will be created.”
In their words, the team said it is concerned with the following:
1. Equality for all regardless of race, gender, class, social standing and/or sexual orientation – both in and out of the classroom as well as the community.
2. Increase of unity within the community. Changing the way the media portrays crime. White people are typically given justification while other minorities are seen as thugs, etc.
3. Academic equality for students. Certain schools offer programs/tracks that are not available at all schools or to all students within that school. Better opportunities for students who don’t have parental or financial support is needed. For example, not everyone can afford Advanced Placement (AP) testing fees and those who are unable to pay those fees, are often not encouraged to enroll into those programs. Additionally, the academic investment doesn’t always stay within the community.
4. Lack of adequate training for teachers to interact effectively with all students. Example, “Why is my passion mistaken for aggression?” “Why when I get an A on a test, does the teacher tell me, ‘Wow, I didn’t know you could pull that off.’”
5. Segregation through classism.
6. Getting others to see that institutional racism does exist in our community, city, state, etc.
In their words, the team said it is pursuing the following:
1. Meetings with the local police leaders to share personal experiences and hear from officers and leaders on what their experience is and what changes we might be able to work together on.
2. Meetings with students in classes where diversity is lacking. Speaking at assemblies and with local youth groups and/or programs.
3. Meetings with school staff to include teachers and administration. Embarking on open dialogue about what triggers the negative experiences and interactions.
“Garfield Football has set a course of action and we will see it through,” the statement concluded.