The formulaic nature of the country’s sporting tradition of pregame patriotism was turned upside down on August 26, when 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat on the sideline during the national anthem in an act of protest about police violence against people of color. Days later, a freshman football team in Michigan made a powerful statement of its own about the importance of the national anthem at sporting events.
As first reported by MLive.com, the Lapeer freshman football team was upset that the Carman-Ainsworth High public address system would not play the national anthem before their game, so the athletes chose to sing it anthem themselves. The decision started with the team standing and saluting the flag, which inspired singing from the players themselves.
“We’re just super proud of our guys to overcome that situation and take it upon themselves to sing the national anthem. We couldn’t be prouder,” Lapeer High School athletic director Shad Spilski told MLive.com.
Before anyone throws the Carman-Ainsworth staff under the bus — or the school district, for that matter — it should be noted that it’s a common practice for schools to play the national anthem just once when freshman and junior varsity games are played back-to-back. To that end, Carman-Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Eddie L. Kindle told MLive that they traditionally choose to play the anthem before the highest level of competition, which was the junior varsity contest on the day when Lapeer and Camen-Ainsworth faced off.
In fact, the Carman-Ainsworth sideline was clearly in support of hearing the national anthem, too, standing and saluting the flag while the Lapeer players sang, according to Lapeer’s head freshman coach.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” Lapeer head coach Bryan Sahr told MLive.com. “I’ve been with most of these players for three years now. They’re just an awesome group of kids. It makes me incredibly emotional and I don’t usually get emotional.
“A lot of teenagers would be embarrassed to do that. I know I don’t like to hear myself sing, … I’m very, very proud of them.”
So were many of the parents in attendance, as the Facebook post above is testament to. If nothing else, the a cappella rendition of the Star Spangled Banner served as an inspiration for a number of athletes, fans and employees of a pair of Michigan schools with plenty more happy to know that it happened even if they weren’t there in person.