The World of Inquiry (Rochester, N.Y.). boys soccer team’s protest is a silent one, at least for now.
Players and coach Rich Paufler declined to speak with media following Thursday’s 2-1 win at Bishop Kearney. Unlike Tuesday’s match at Aquinas Institute, where all 18 players knelt during the national anthem, seven players stood while it was played before the match at Kearney. The other 11 knelt at midfield while both teams listened to the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
Why the change remains a mystery because no one wanted to talk about it. The Rochester City School District did send a letter home with players on Wednesday encouraging them to talk with their families about the anthem protest. That could have led to some players changing their stance.
“Our basic premise is this, is that everybody has an individual right,” World of Inquiry principal Sheelarani Webster said earlier on Thursday at a news conference. “We want to make sure that individual right is an informed decision and that other peoples’ perspectives also are respected.
“We will try to do our best to make sure that our boys continue to be dignified and respectful.”
Protests during the anthem have become prevalent and a hot topic nationally since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee before an NFL preseason game in late August
“At school, we try to raise independent thinkers, right?” Webster said. “Along the way of being an independent thinker, you have to be able to manage some of the bumps in the road.
“So any opportunity that we have, where kids make a decision, and we want to follow up with protocols around what’s the best way to make that decision — how does it impact you and how does it impact others — we always find that to be an opportunity to help kids grow.”
Webster said the school taught lessons about perspective Thursday in the players’ advisory group classes.
One fan in the sparse crowd at Thursday night’s match brought a large flag to display. Just after the Griffins (10-0-1) scored with 10 minutes, 48 seconds left to play to pull out the non-league victory, Carlos Cotto, director of health, physical education and athletics told reporters that WOI athletic director Donna Enright would ask players afterward if they wanted to address the media.
Just after the final horn, an RCSD sentry walked over to the Griffins’ bench, conferred with Enright and returned to tell the media the players and coach Paufler had declined interviews.
The players had agreed before Tuesday’s game that they would take a knee as a team.
“They were all going to do it or none of them would do it,” said Michael Lopez, whose son plays for the team and is also vice president of the Flower City Soccer League in which many WOI players compete. “I as a parent and as a coach and a mentor to these boys, who I have concern for, will not tolerate any interference (for them) exercising their constitutional rights to protest the violence against the black people in America by police.”