Following the lead of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, a few members of a New Jersey high school football team knelt while the national anthem played.
Like Kaepernick and Marshall, coaches and students combined as the predominantly non-white Woodrow Wilson school performed the controversial move to raise awareness of social and economic injustice, NBC News reports.
Initially, Tigers coach Preston Brown said he was going to kneel alone in protest.
“I am well aware of the third verse of the national anthem which is not usually sung, and I know that the words of the song were not originally meant to include people like me,” he explained.
The silent third verse he’s referring to reads: “No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.”
“[Because] of recent events that happened the last couple years, things I experienced in college being an African-American student athlete in the south, I felt it was an appropriate time to do that,” explained Brown, NJ.com reports.
“I’m African-American, I wouldn’t rather be in any other country,” he added. “But I can’t be oblivious to the things I see every day that are different four blocks away in a neighboring town.”
After informing players of his decision, some of the students decided to join Brown, likely because the students could empathize with his reasons.
“I grew up in poverty, a lot of these kids are growing up in poverty,” explained Brown. “There’s a lot of social injustices and economic disparities. There’s issues right here in our own community.”
While they support standing for the flag, the Camden City School District said they agreed with Brown’s sentiments and praised the students.
“Whether our students choose to stand, kneel, or otherwise, we’re proud of their engagement with what is more broadly a very important social justice issue,” school district spokesman Brendan Lowe said.