Wicomico High School’s football team beat Snow Hill 59-12 on Friday, Oct. 14 for its second straight win, but it wasn’t the final score that turned heads.
It was what a group of Wi-Hi players did before the kickoff.
Several players, following the lead of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, decided to take a knee during the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner.
Keeondre’ Coston was one of those players.
“(I did it) to support the (Black Lives Matter) movement,” Coston said. “It wasn’t to harm anyone, it was just a peaceful protest that me and some of my teammates decided to do for support.
“But it seemed to have upset some people.”
One of the folks rubbed the wrong way by the actions of Coston and his teammates was Matt Broyles, a Stockton man.
Broyles posted a photo that he took of the players kneeling to his Facebook page and accompanied it with a comment that said, “Class act Wi-Hi. Way to teach the kids to disrespect the National Anthem.”
As of 9 a.m. on Saturday, the post had 157 shares, 155 likes and 275 comments. For the Eastern Shore, that’s viral.
“My entire point of the post was that I don’t understand,” Broyles said. “Why disrespect something that means so much to our military men and woman of all races that fight for us and protect us?
“The military has nothing to do with the (Black Lives Matter) issues, nor can they resolve those issues. It’s an issue that needs to be brought in front of law enforcement, politicians, congress. I’m all for resolving the social injustices but I just fell it could be done differently.”
Broyles was at the game because he has two daughters – one was playing in the band and one was cheerleading. He’s a Snow Hill football fan too, having played for the Eagles during the Ben Tate era in the mid-2000’s.
His father served in the Navy for 20 years and he has several friends who were in the service too, he says.
“It’s kind of like the Pledge of Allegiance or praying,” Broyles said. “Even if you don’t necessarily believe in doing either, you still stand for the pledge, if you’re not reciting it, or bow your head, and not praying, just to be respectful to the others doing it.
“I was just always raised to respect the flag for what it means to so many.”
Coston said that he and a couple of other teammates have been doing this all season, but no one had noticed before. Before the Snow Hill game, 13 Wi-Hi players took a knee before the anthem.
“This week was the most so far,” Coston said. “As the weeks progressed, more and more players started to take a knee.”
And he says his coaches are behind him too.
“Our coaches support us,” Coston said. “They just tell us not to get out of hand with it. As long as it’s just a peaceful protest they don’t have a problem with it.”
DelmarvaNow.com reached out to Wi-Hi head coach Brian Hanson on Saturday morning for a comment, but he did not immediately respond.
Broyles added that he didn’t have a problem with the meaning behind the player’s protest, but takes issue with “the manner in which it is being carried” out.
A senior running back, corner and kick returner, Coston is one of Wi-Hi’s top players on both sides of the ball. Against Snow Hill, he had a rushing touchdown and tallied an interception in the first half.
“I love my team,” Coston said. “We’ve been putting in a lot of work since the beginning of the season and we’ve made a lot of improvements thanks to our amazing coaching staff.”
The senior expects more of his teammates to join in on the protest. The Indians are 3-4 this year and coming off of back-to-back wins heading into what will be a tough uphill battle against one of the best teams in the Bayside North.
“Yes, I do think more will join in,” he said. “We will have to see at our game this Friday against Queen Anne’s.”