The coach of a youth football team is being criticized for encouraging the 8-year-old players to kneel during the U.S. national anthem, inspired by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Every member of the Cahokia Quarterback Club took part in the protest before Sunday’s game in Belleville, Illinois, Fox2 reported.
“One of the kids asked me if I saw [people] protesting and rioting in St. Louis,” coach Orlando Gooden told Fox2. “I said yes. I said, ‘Do you know why they are doing it?'”
“I felt like it was a good teaching moment for me to circle the team and have a meeting,” Gooden said.
According to the Fox2 report, the parents supported the coach’s decision. “As long as I have support of my parents and team, I’m perfectly fine, and I’m covered under the First Amendment to peacefully protest and assemble,” Gooden said, according to the report.
In the Fox2 Facebook post, users wrote angry comments.
The move drew scorn elsewhere on social media.
“Brainwashing little kids … I would tear my kid up if he didn’t stand for the National Anthem. And if he had that coach he would be out of football and into hockey,” one person wrote.
“This coach does NOT have the right to teach other peoples’ children his own beliefs and then encourage them to follow, or encourage by allowing. Eight year olds don’t need to learn this. Hopefully someone will teach them more respect than the coach did! Just wrong!” another person added.
Pundits on “Fox & Friends” slammed the gesture.
“These kids clearly—I’m a parent, you guys are all parents, these 8-year-olds don’t know what they’re doing. They’re following the lead of their parents, and this is a very political statement that they have no idea what they’re doing,” stated host Rachael Campos-Duffy in an exchange.
Kaepernick, who is unsigned following his protest last season, retweeted the story to his 1.3 million followers.
“Yes. I’ve never stopped,” Kaepernick reportedly said of whether he wants to play, according to the New York Post. “I’m ready right now. Working out daily.”
There were rumors that the Cincinnati Bengals were looking to possibly replace quarterback Andy Dalton with Kaepernick after the Bengals poor offensive play.