No sporting event is ever complete without a National Anthem, and as soon as the players and the audience hear the familiar notes, they know exactly what to do. Players scramble to their feet and put their right hand on their chest and left hand behind their backs to show respect for their flag.
This social norm is often taught at a very early age in school and one is often considered unpatriotic if they do not stand up to show respect for the country and its veterans. But is the action of standing during the national anthem obligatory for sportsmen? Federal court says no.
Federal Court Bars Schools from Making Students Stand During Anthem
Patriotism has nothing to do with standing during the national anthem and schools should not order their students to do something they don’t want to for the sake of tradition, a federal court says. The problem arose when a high school in Imperial County made it mandatory for all students and attendees of sports events to stand up during the national anthem.
The strict rule was first established in San Pasqual Valley Unified School District which clearly stated that none of the players of the school’s football team were allowed to sit, kneel or engage in any other form of political protest while the national anthem was playing during an athletic event. The district elaborated on the rule saying that the players must also remove their hats or helmets and put their right hand against their heart as soon as they hear the song play.
A Trend on the Rise
The federal court ruled against this strict high school rule and said that the school could not force any student to stand during the anthem against their wish. According to the U.S. District Court’s ruling in Southern California, high school football players and coaches also had no obligation to remove their hats or place their hand on their chest. The court’s decision stated that if the players wished, they could also kneel during the Anthem.
Protests against the U.S national anthem have been occurring country-wide as several famous NFL players have shown their dissatisfaction with the current political system by either remaining seated on national television or choosing to stay behind in the lockers while the Anthem played.
Native American Harassed at White-Majority School
The trend is now catching on with high school football players as well who are kneeling during the anthem as a sign of protest. The school district in California set the rule after a native American student in San Pasqual Valley High School decided to take a leaf out of the NFL players’ book and kneel during the national anthem at a majority-white sports event.
The player who became the center of controversy was identified as ‘V.A’ in the court records and had reportedly knelt in order to protest racial injustice in the country. The incident occurred while the San Pasqual Valley football players were at an Arizonian rival high school and the V.A was blasted with racial slurs and threats from the students in the audience. Since then, the school district created a ‘no-kneeling’ rule to prevent such incidents from occurring again.
A Fight for Freedom of Political Expression
The incident added more fuel to the ongoing heated debate over NFL players’ attitude towards the anthem where some critics are questioning if the act of kneeling is the appropriate form of showing their grievances or simply a disrespect to the country’s flag and its veterans. San Pasqual Valley high school, where most of the students are Latino or Native American, became the target of bullying at the all-white Arizona school.
The student who had reportedly refused to stand during the National anthem despite the racial slurs from onlookers, was represented at the federal court by his lawyer to fight for his 1st amendment right to political expression . The school district has currently been stopped from implementing the new rule which means that students will no longer be barred from protesting during the National Anthem.