Coaches take knees behind stands after principal threatens to cancel game

Coaches take knees behind stands after principal threatens to cancel game

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Coaches take knees behind stands after principal threatens to cancel game

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Some Griffin football players took a knee, other stood for the national anthem on Tuesday. All of the coaches took a knee. (Photo: Jordan Culver/ Tallahasee Democrat)

Some Griffin football players took a knee, other stood for the national anthem on Tuesday. All of the coaches took a knee. (Photo: Jordan Culver/ Tallahasee Democrat)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. —  Griffin Middle School football coach Brett Stanley continued his protest of the national anthem out of the spotlight.

Stanley, his coaches and a few of his players took a knee while the anthem played Tuesday before the team’s game against Deerlake, but it’s doubtful anyone saw the protest.

The anthem played, and the game went on. Griffin ended up winning 30-0.

Per district rules, both teams were off the field before the game at the Chiles High football stadium. Ricky Bell, who oversees athletics for the school district, said teams hold meetings in locker rooms or behind bleachers before the game.

If Stanley took his protest to the field, he would have been found insubordinate. Then, there would have been issues.

Monday, before the game, Stanley said Griffin principal Gwendolyn Thomas threatened to cancel the contest if he continued his protest.

Bell said if Stanley ended up doing something that qualified as insubordination, i.e. leaving his team behind the bleachers to protest on the field, the second-year coach could have been dismissed from the team. He said Stanley is supposed to be with his team during the anthem, and the team is supposed to be away from the field.

“We’re not saying anything is right or wrong,” Bell said after the game. “He could have taken them to the locker room. Most high school teams do that. College teams to that. That’s why we try to do that. Whatever they do in the locker room, that’s between them and their players.

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“He’s fine. I congratulated them after the game. They had a great game, they were all upbeat after the game was over. I shook everyone’s hand and said, ‘Let’s do it again next week.’”

Griffin Middle School assistant coach Antwoine Smith takes a knee during the national anthem before the team’s game against Deerlake. (Photo: Jordan Culver/Democrat)

Griffin Middle School assistant coach Antwoine Smith takes a knee during the national anthem before the team’s game against Deerlake. (Photo: Jordan Culver/Tallahassee Democrat)

The insubordination would stem from Stanley leaving his players unsupervised, not from the protest, Bell said.

Bell added another coach could have stepped up to lead the team if Stanley were let go prior to the teams taking the field. The game didn’t have to be canceled if Stanley stepped out of bounds to continue his protest.

“At this point, I don’t want to take away from the kids,” Stanley said before the game. “But I don’t want to give up my rights, you know. She said I’d have to go behind the stands if we’re going to protest.”

Stanley is not the first athletic figured in Tallahassee to join the national protest, which was sparked by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Last week, FSU volleyball Mara Green knelt before the Seminoles’ game against Florida, saying she was, “unhappy with the racial tension, racial injustice and police brutality in our country.”

“At the end of the day, my job is to coach and mentor these kids to be the best they can be,” Stanley said. “I want them to be successful on and off the field.”

Bell said in his mind, the game went smoothly.

“All’s well that ends well,” Bell said.

EARLIER REPORT

Griffin Middle School football coach Brett Stanley is in a tough position.

He wants to exercise his right to protest. He did so last week. Before Griffin’s game against Raa Middle School, Stanley said he and a few players took a knee during the national anthem.

Stanley said it could cost him if he does it again Tuesday night. In an interview with the Tallahassee Democrat, he said school principal, Gwendolyn Thomas, said she will cancel Tuesday’s game against Deerlake if he kneels again.

“At this point, I don’t want to take away from the kids,” Stanley said. “But I don’t want to give up my rights, you know. She said I’d have to go behind the stands if we’re going to protest. We’re planning on playing tonight. We know there’s going to be a lot of people there to see what’s going to happen. I’m not sure if we’re going to take a knee yet. I haven’t talked to the coaching staff.”

Hours later, the coaches and several players took a knee behind the stands as the anthem played. Other players stood with their hands on their heart. The game went on as scheduled.

Stanley, in his second year at Griffin, said he thinks the district is responsible for the pressure to stand during the anthem, not Thomas herself. After last Tuesday’s protest, Stanley said he had to cancel football practice — something he’s never done before — to have a meeting with Thomas about the protest.

“She said she just wanted to talk to us, but you can talk to us outside of practice hours,” he said.

Thomas could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ricky Bell, who oversees athletics for Leon County Schools, said he had a conversation with Thomas. She said she wanted to give coaches an opportunity to meet with their players before games. The team meeting would be in the locker room, away from the field.

“If he wanted to take a knee then, that would be fine,” Bell said.

Bell added it’s highly unlikely Stanely and his players would be out of the locker room for the national anthem anyway. Stanley is supposed to be with his team, and his team is supposed to be away from the field. If Stanley were to come out of the locker room just to protest the anthem, he would be found insubordinate.

MORE: Florida district says students need parental permission to kneel

The insubordination would stem from Stanley leaving his players unsupervised, not from the protest, Bell said. He added if Stanley is found insubordinate, he could be dismissed. That doesn’t necessarily mean the game would be canceled — someone else could coach the team if Stanley were let go.

Stanley is not the first athletic figured in Tallahassee to join the national protest, which was sparked by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Last week, FSU volleyball Mara Green knelt before FSU’s game against Florida, saying she was, “unhappy with the racial tension, racial injustice and police brutality in our country.”

“My preparation from last Tuesday up until today has been about football,” Stanley said. “At the end of the day, my job is to coach and mentor these kids to be the best they can be. I want them to be successful on and off the field. I’m assuming there are going to be a lot of people there just to see if we take the knee. I assume if we take the knee, they’ll cancel the game right then and there.”

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Coaches take knees behind stands after principal threatens to cancel game
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