A Massachusetts high school says it has not suspended a player for kneeling during the national anthem, a day after the player told USA TODAY Sports that he was notified by his coach that he would miss the next game.
Michael Oppong, a senior from Doherty Memorial High in Worcester, says in series of Twitter direct messages that he was informed Sunday by Doherty coach Sean Mulcahy that the “coaches and principals decided that I should be suspended for 1 game.”
Asked if he was told he was suspended because he knelt for the anthem, Oppong said, “Yes, I was.”
Doherty High issued a statement Monday that said, “That information is incorrect. There has not been any student or football player that has been suspended for anything that happened on Friday night.”
Oppong tweeted Monday that his suspension had been terminated.
Schools Superintendent Maureen Binienda reiterated in a statement that Oppong “did not violate any school rule when he peacefully and silently protested during the national anthem.”
“He exercised his constitutional rights without disturbing the school assembly and he is not being disciplined by his actions,” Binienda continued.
Oppong said that he was told the reasons for the suspension would be discussed more fully him with at school Monday.
Kneeling for the national anthem has gained national attention in recent weeks after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick did it in two preseason games in an attempt to call attention to social injustice. Kaepernick has been praised and vilified for his action, and several other NFL players have also knelt, including four Miami Dolphins on Sunday in Seattle.
Oppong’s initial social media post about the suspension drew a huge outcry and was retweeted more than 1,500 times. The ACLU of Massachusetts acknowledged Sunday night that it had been made aware of the situation.
In a series of direct messages that were made public, Oppong said he intended to continue his kneeling throughout the season.
“I’m standing up for the injustice that happens to black people every day, not just cops killing black people,” he wrote. “We are mistreated and disrespected everywhere we go on a daily basis because of our skin color and I’m sick of it.”
Oppong said he had the support of his teammates and his gesture should not have come as a surprise. He told several teammates last week and posted on Twitter on Sept. 6 of his intentions.
Oppong scored on a 24- yard touchdown run in the final second of a 28-20 loss to Leominster. Initial news media reports on the game made no mention of his gesture.
According to a season preview about the team from the Worcester Telegram, Oppong was expected to be in the mix for the quarterback role this season. His older brother, Sam, graduated from Dartmouth last season is plays for UMass-Dartmouth.