Most members of the Evanston Township High School marching band Thursday night joined the “Take a Knee” movement that’s sweeping the sports world after President Trump’s critical comments about it last week.

The symbolic protest over treatment of minorities, especially black men, in America has seen pro athletes either kneel or link arms during the playing of the national anthem before sporting events.

The protests spread after Trump suggested that athletes who won’t stand during the anthem should be fired.

Before the game at Lazier Field, ETHS Superintendent Eric Witherspoon addressed the crowd, and called for a moment of silence before the national anthem.

Witherspoon said in part, “America was founded on the ideals that promise life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to everyone. It is imperative that we work to make sure that promise is fulfilled. We must continue to fight for equality. We must continue to love. We must continue to speak out on injustices wherever they exist.”

In an email message to parents, he added, “Students of Evanston Township High School have the right of free expression and association and the privacy of one’s own thoughts and opinions. If a student chooses to remain seated or kneel during the national anthem, our existing practice allows students to express their First Amendment right to free speech so long as it does not significantly disrupt the learning environment.”

Update 6:45 p.m.: Similar protests have occurred in recent days at high schools across the country. As the New York Times reports, some school officials have threatened to punish students for the protests, but Supreme Court decisions give students at public schools a right to protest, as long as the protests remain peaceful.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Teaching our kids to hate America first

    Evanston football players last night turned their backs to the flag during the national anthem. Is this the message ETHS staff are teaching our kids?

    D202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon told the crowd during last night’s game that “We must work as a community to combat systems of oppression aimed at our Black, Latino, Muslim, Refugee, Immigrant, and LGBTQ+ communities.” What is this system of oppression and where does it exist? At Evanston High School?

    Cops kill more whites than blacks every year. The number of cop on black shootings have DECLINED in the past two years. The public knows the names of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin thanks in part to our former president but it doesn’t know the names of Gilbert Collar or 6 year old Jeremy Mardis, innocent unarmed whites killed at the hands of black cops. Mardis was killed last year by two black cops in Louisiana as they shot his dad who had his hands up of all things.

    Why would millions of brown people who can’t speak English and nothing on their backs risk their lives to sneak into a country that has a system of oppression? This whole kneeling business soared after President Trump said owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem. NFL owners have that legal right and the NFL has numerous codes of conduct that it has enforced.

    Last year the NFL banned Dallas Cowboy players from wearing a decal on their helmets honoring five Dallas cops who were killed by a black shooter at a Black Lives Matter protest.

    Avery Williamson, a starting linebacker for the Tennessee Titans, hoped to wear a pair of specially-designed cleats at his team’s home opener on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks but he backed off when a league rep vowed to fine him for violating the league’s uniform code.

    Running back DeAngelo Williams was fined $5,787 for wearing “Find the Cure” in his eye black in honor of breast cancer awareness. His mother died of breast cancer.

    Cornerback William Gay was fined for wearing purple cleats to show support for domestic violence awareness. His mother was killed in domestic violence.

    The NFL fined then Bears player Brandon Marshall for wearing green shoes in honor of Mental Health Awareness Week.

    A high school coach and former Marine in Washington State was FIRED for praying with his players AFTER a football game!!

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch our school leaders are advocating and justifying public displays of disrespecting our flag and nation simply for political purposes. Is it a stretch to think that ETHS staff and Witherspoon care not about cops, women, the mentally ill, Christians, 9/11 victims and their families? For that matter do they not care about the one symbol that unites us all despite our differences? By using that symbol – our flag – as a vehicle for protest then they essentially are saying there is no central unity in America and the ideas the flag stands for – freedom – is false.  

    The irony is they have the freedom to hate America first. Those who agree with me and remain silent simply consent to this outrageous turn of events.

    1. One more to cross off the list

       I guess parents who want their kids to get an education instead of being at a school for every hair-brained idea and ‘School of Protest’ will start looking for other places than D65 and  D202.

      There are real issue but the schools, football team and town keep trivializing them with such antics. Some people argue against charter, religious, private schools and home schooling but the thing like we are seeing now will alienate parents and drive them to these so their kids can get a good education instead of indoctrination on every loony protest.

      Reed College and Berkeley use to be known as home for every loon to go to but now Evanston is catching up.

      1. Making kids and parents displeased

        Home schooling, private,  and charter schools are tops!   No indoctrinations, bullying, crazy clothing rules, putting up with everyone’s ideas but your own, peer pressure…just plain ole’ learning. Then you get to pick extracurricular activities that are enticing and worhwhi, with no pressured values.   Frankly, I see the idealogy of the school districts as something that is losing its cool….and making a lot of kids, as well as parents, very displeased. 

    2. Hi Anonymous Al


      Dear Anonomous Al,

      Not that it will make a difference to you, but the boys did not turn their backs on the flag. The photo was taken when the boys turned and took a knee to listen to the Superintendent speak. At the end of the speech, he asked people to stand for the national anthem. 18 players and others chose not to stand as is their right. Others put their hands on the shoulder of a kneeling player.

      What I find ironic is that you ask “What is this system of oppression and where does it exist?” It exists with a President who among many things calls black football players “Son of a bitches” while pointing out therewere “fine people” marching with White Supremacists, berates a Muslim Gold Star family, wants to send back dream Act children, and has a VP that backed laws that allow businesses to use their religious beliefs to refuse service to same sex couples. Does that oppression exist at ETHS? No and as a parent I am thankful for that. 

      Your “cops kill more white people than blacks every year” is only accurate because in absolute numbers there are roughly five times as many white people in America than black people. Statistically black Americans are several times more likely to be killed in police shootings.

      Your NFL fine list is interesting but all has to do with league uniform violation infractions rather than oppression.

      Finally, for someone with such strong opinions, I find it interesting that you feel the need to stay anonymous. My name is Bob Jensen.

      1. ~~I neither have a need for

        ~~I neither have a need for anonymity.  Proud ETHS ’67, mother of ETHS ’05, daughter of two WWII veterans, I am speechless as I read some of the posts here and elsewhere.  Kneeling simply provides a reminder that this country we love does not yet offer ‘liberty and justice for all.’  Even in Evanston, where an NU grad student was subjected to a ‘get on the ground’ traffic stop for adjusting the luggage rack on his own car, racial prejudice and social injustice exist.  Think that would have happened if he were white?  ETHS, Witherspoon, and the students who demonstrated solidarity with the message have my full support and gratitude.  This is the Evanston of which I am proud to be a part.

      2. Hello Bob

        Dear Bob Jensen,

        President Trump said: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s FIRED!” No where did the president say ANYTHING about black players. But you did. Very interesting. 

        The Sons of Confederate Veterans were in Charlottesville protesting the statue removal and they publicly condemned the white supremacists who were there. President Trump called Mr. Khan, the Muslim Gold Star father who berated candidate Trump at the Democratic National Convention, “a nice guy” and wished him the “best of luck.” President Trump has not and does not want to send DACA members back to their home countries.

        In 1993 the Democratic controlled Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and Bill Clinton signed the bill into law? So you can’t blame VP Pence.

        More than 50 percent of all violent crime in America is committed by roughly 7 percent of the population (black males). Police go where the crime is. The more crime a particular group commits the more chances there will be resistance between criminals in that group and police enforcing the law. 

        Last year two black cops killed an innocent 6 year old white boy as his dad stood by with his hands up. Imagine the media coverage if the races were reversed. Jeremy Mardis would be a household name. But that event didn’t fit with the black lives matter narrative in which our former president and paid protesters continue to relentlessly advance. 

        The NFL is OK with players kneeling during the anthem to protest police shootings of blacks but are not permitted to wear helmet decals to honor white cops killed by a black man who was emboldened by Black Lives Matter protests. That’s a problem and why we are boycotting the NFL..

    3. Louisiana
      Al wrote:
      “The public knows the names of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin thanks in part to our former president but it doesn’t know the names of Gilbert Collar or 6 year old Jeremy Mardis, innocent unarmed whites killed at the hands of black cops. Mardis was killed last year by two black cops in Louisiana as they shot his dad who had his hands up of all things.”

      It should be noted that the policemen in Louisiana who shot Mardis were arrested, and convicted.

  2. The Kool Aid has been

    The Kool Aid has been consumed, served gratis if your lunch card is in arrears and Witherspoon is the chief dispenser.  Brains have been sufficiently washed.   Seems to have have affected the Wildkit defense as well.  Bring back Murney!

  3. Any DACA dreamers take a knee

    Any DACA dreamers take a knee?  Might want to reconsider staying in this oppressive, horrible, Country.

  4. Take a Knee
    I humbly invite all “kneelers” to Evanston’s Veteran’s Day remembrance in November that honors all of those who have fought for our freedom.
    I think the “kneelers” would stand up next time.

    1. I invite you to talk to
      I invite you to talk to minorities about inequality…. I think you may kneel next time. Thank you for your service.

    2. Veterans Day

      I’m pretty sure some of those rights that veterans fought and died for included the right to freely and peacefully protest.

    3. Take A Stand

      There is no reason the so-called “kneelers” can’t do both. Many veterans will tell you that while they don’t agree with kneeling, it exercises the very rights they fought for.

      If we address or in some cases even acknowledge the issues surrounding the protest instead of addressing the protest itself, no one will feel the need to kneel.

  5. I’m going to go out on a limb
    I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that none of the posters on this article are people of color.

    Cops *do* kill more whites than blacks in America; however there are 160 million more white people than black people in the USA. Easily findable statistics show that cops kill black people at 2.5x the rate that they do white people. [Note: I do not mean to indite all, or even most, people in law enforcement. Just sharing statistics.] I don’t think President Obama made Trayvon Martin famous, I think an overzealous, armed neighborhood watchman who (despite police dispatch’s request) confronted, fought, shot and killed him, made him famous. I also don’t think President Obama made Michael Brown famous, that news story was huge regardless of who lived at the White House. I hope that all people wish for less officer-involved shootings regardless of race.

    Would you consider, that even though our country is objectively better than most (or all, as you will) countries by any rational set of metrics, that our country is not perfect, and that the ‘millions of brown people’ who want to come here, want to come here because our country is better and not because it is perfect? Also, lots of people who aren’t “brown people” want to come here. I gather from your post, Anonymous Al, that you believe America is only for whites and Christians. That, to me, is particularly un-American. Yes, the kneeling business has soared since the President tried to intimidate football players into doing what he wanted. Athletes and owners showed this past weekend overwhelming support and unison with their teammates. How about instead of condemning athletes for their method of protest and thus (perhaps intentionally) obscuring the reason for their protest, the President invite them to Washington for a discussion? Remember that Kaepernick didn’t start kneeling until he met with a former serviceman and former NFL’er to talk about how to both protest and show respect to the flag; the former soldier recommended kneeling as a sign of respect, and is on record fully supporting Kaep’s method of protest.

    Ok, on to comparing the protesting to uniform violations…well, not really much to say, is there? There aren’t rules requiring the athletes to do anything and it doesn’t look like the owners are going to require anyone to stand up and sing. As Aaron Rodgers pointed out this week (before thrashing the Bears last night), shouldn’t we be upset about all the cameramen, the food vendors, and even the people out drinking beer in the parking lot who aren’t paying attention to the anthem? As to the high school coach–well, public school officials shouldn’t be getting involved in religion and students. That creates an atmosphere which suggests that religion is a requirement of involvement, which it should not be. Sorry for that guy’s loss of income, but he was doing his job wrong.

    Yes, it is a stretch to suggest that ETHS staff members don’t care about ‘cops, women, the mentally ill, Christians, 9/11 victims and their families’. Interesting that you left off oh, Muslism, Jews, your aforementioned “millions of brown people”, oh, I dunno, gays, little people, other historically persecuted cultural groups. You should consider that some people care SO MUCH about life in America that they would even use our flag as a symbol of protest to draw attention to their plight! “By using that symbol – our flag – as a vehicle for protest then they essentially are saying there is no central unity in America and the ideas the flag stands for – freedom – is false.” Well, there really is very little central unity in America; ‘mainstream politics’ is as popular as the black plague, it seems. Just read the newspaper (or twitter, I guess). Second, if the idea that the flag stands for is freedom, then how can you criticize someone for choosing to demonstrate their freedom, even in such a manner?

    John Q, your comment was pretty funny.
    Steve W, I hope that the whole city turns out for the city’s Veterans’ Day remembrance. However please don’t equate ‘take a knee’ with not supporting and honoring those who served and died for our country.

    1. Cops
      Another easily found statistics is that while being a minority, black people commit majority of the crime. How do you adjust your 2.5x rate disparity for that fact?

  6. Boo

    I hope the crowd booed and hissed when the knee-jerk action took place. I hope that anyone that desided to leave got their entrance fee returned. Justise screems out “FIRE WITHERSPOON” for his dispecable act of promoting this anti-American event. 

    I don’t think this is the kids fault. The ETHS administration has let the students get out of control by by slanting their education by promoting Socialist/Progressive agenda.

    In case locals haven’t noticed, most of this country is deplored with the knee jerk action. The NFL is regetting that they have allowed their players to use the NFL. While not banning the anti-American act, they are not going to promte it, like Witherspoon. 

  7. Last time I checked, the
    Last time I checked, the First Amendment, granting all of us the right to peaceful protest, was still in effect. Some people leaving comments on this page seem to want to change that.

    1. Last time I checked

      they do have a right to protest peacefully.  We (the taxpayers) have a right to not fund athletics and other non state mandated extra curriculars if we feel the school does not reflect the community’s values.  Actions have consequences.

    2. First Amendment
      Last time I checked, First Amendment applies only to the government. Individuals are free to ignore, support or to make you face their displeasure as they see fit.

  8. Perspective

    Heard today: “Do those who think the “Take A Knee” protesters are doing it to disrespect the American Flag  think Rosa Parks was disrespecting public transportation?”

  9. Good. The difference between

    Good. The difference between this country and those like North Korea is the right to protest. You don’t have to agree with the protest…..that happens to be your right too. Too many here would gladly burn the constitution while wrapping themselves in the flag.

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