Young athletes across the country have joined Colin Kaepernick’s effort to stand up against police brutality by taking a knee during the national anthem. For one team of young players in Beaumont, Texas, doing so may have cost them the rest of their season.
The Beaumont Bulls, a team of 11- and 12-year-old boys, told their head coach Rah-Rah Barber that they wanted to take a knee before a game on September 10, according to Bleacher Report. The team was granted permission to protest from the Beaumont Bulls board.
After news of the protest went viral ― Kaepernick himself retweeted stories about it ― the team started receiving criticism and even death threats to the coaches and players’ lives, a parent told ABC.
The team’s board, which is predominantly black, issued a statement to local station KFDM, condemning the threats and saying that they “will continue to support” the team. Board president Seterria Anderson also issued a statement after the committee met to discuss the protest and the safety of the players.
Anderson told KFDM that nothing was resolved at the meeting, but “the Senior team will continue to kneel, if they choose to, at the playing of the National Anthem.”
Parents told Bleacher Report that the board said they would suspend the team and ultimately cancel their season if protests continued, per the orders of the Bay Area Football League, their parent organization. However, league president Tony Patino told The Huffington Post that “no mandates or orders were given to suspend any coach or player.”
The league issued a statement the day after the board’s meeting, asserting that the team’s “actions are clearly not in violation of any regulation, rules or policies” and that the league hadn’t had a reason to meet with the board or the team.
Despite the board’s threats, the players told their coaches they still wanted to kneel before their game on September 17. This time, some players knelt while other stood behind them and locked arms.
A coach told Bleacher Report that they didn’t discourage the team’s protest because “We can’t teach them to [quit].”
Several days later, after another meeting, the board suspended head coach Rah-Rah Barber.
Barber told the sports outlet that the board thought he lost control of the team. But, in an email to parents, the board said his suspension was due to the “improper removal” of a coach and player and the result of a text message that wasn’t sent to the entire team.
The team protested Barber’s suspension by not attending practice.
Anderson, whose son is a player, told Beaumont Enterprise the season got canceled because several players quit and the Bulls didn’t have enough players.
Patino told HuffPost that “there was never a league or club mandate to end the season.” He added, “The coach and parents made a decision to leave the team. They went to another team four weeks ago without returning the Bulls equipment. When they found out there was only one game left in the other team’s schedule they released a false statement to the New York Daily News.”
April Parkerson, a team parent, told the Beaumont Enterprise that the protest was indeed the reason that the season ended. Parkerson told The Huffington Post that though parents considered going to another team, that didn’t happen and none of the players quit.
“We protested for one week, but instead of the executive board meeting with our senior players and parents to discuss what compromise could be made, they simply canceled our season...”
Parkerson said the players haven’t joined the team because it’s late in the season. She also told Beaumont Enterprise the kids are waiting until the end of the season to return equipment the parents because kids still have hope that they will be able to play with their old coach.
HuffPost reached out to the Beaumont Bulls Board but didn’t immediately get a response.
This article has been updated with new information from April Parkerson.