Jacob Malae was a football star at Bellarmine College Prep in the early ’90s, and, like many former stars, he returned to the school as a coach. But after a group of players decided to take a knee during the national anthem last month, Malae says he’s done with the varsity team.
“The act of kneeling during the national anthem doesn’t create dialogue, it creates division,” Malae wrote in a letter obtained by the San Jose Mercury News. “People are talking about the what, not the why. And that is unfortunate and shameful. It is unfortunate because the seemingly well intended act of a few is causing undue harm to the whole.
“It is shameful because BCP not only knew (or should have known) this was going to happen, but didn’t do anything to stop it. As adults in this equation, it is our fundamental duty to act when we know, or eventually realize, that irreparable harm is being done.”
According to the Mercury News, the players’ decision to kneel has “struck a deep nerve” throughout the school’s community and beyond. At the time, Bellarmine’s president, Chris Meyercord, said this about the silent protest:
Their intent was really to draw attention to people they feel are marginalized, people of color, immigrants in all different kinds of communities that they feel are not getting enough support, enough attention.
They wanted to bring a great understanding to that. That was really what their intention was. They have been thinking about it for a while, working with the school, talking to coaches, talking to teammates. They tried to be really clear about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Their hearts are in the right place.
Prior to kneeling, the players prepared a statement for classmates and the community explaining their decision. It can be read in full here, but it highlights their desire to stand up to injustice and “raise awareness for the marginalized.”
The players go on to say that they “unequivocally appreciate and value the sacrifices of law enforcement,” before stating that they wanted to express displeasure in the way some members of law enforcement treat marginalized groups.
It’s important to note that Malae, who works in law enforcement according to the Mercury News, doesn’t aim to demean the spirit of what the students are trying to accomplish. Instead, he takes issue with the way they have chosen to demonstrate, and that the players put themselves above the team and violated a core value of the program, which is to do things as a unit.
“I struggled mightily with this decision, but I know it is the right decision for me,” Malae, who will continue as a junior varsity assistant, wrote. “I love Bellarmine, Bellarmine football, our players, and the men that I coach with too much to stand idly by and this go unabated. As a coach, all I’ve ever wanted to do was to coach at Bellarmine. I hoped to someday lead the program. But I don’t kneel for the National Anthem, and neither should our varsity players.”