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The Beaumont Bulls Take A Knee

Despite death threats, a youth football team in Texas continues to protest police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem.

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Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel in protest during the national anthem prior to playing the Los Angeles Rams in their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest against racial injustice and police brutality has been the biggest and most controversial storyline to emerge from this young NFL season. Like it or not, Kaepernick’s silent dissent is genius in its simplicity—not every athlete can or will take to the streets to protest, but just about all of them are able to take a knee during the ubiquitous pre-game national anthem. That’s made it easy for the movement to spread throughout the sports world, where it has been duplicated at nearly every level of competition.

This has also prompted vehement pushback from critics. In Texas, Senator Ted Cruz, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, and Ag Commissioner Sid Miller have each publicly expressed their opposition to Kaepernick’s protest. Cruz called Kaepernick a “spoiled” athlete, Jones said the activism is “disappointing,” and Miller said he plans to boycott the NFL unless the league decides to “reign [sic] in” its players.

Kaepernick appears unfazed by such criticism, and continues to kneel. So, too, do the Beaumont Bulls, a youth football team of eleven and twelve-year-olds who have become an Internet sensation. The team and its coaches began emulating Kaepernick’s protest before each game, and video of the team’s first protest two weeks ago went viral, capturing the attention of New York Daily News columnist Shaun King and even Kaepernick himself, who has retweeted two photos of the Bulls.

The Beaumont Enterprise has the story about how the Bulls and head coach Rah Rah Barber decided to kneel:

Earlier in the week, he and the other coaches had discussed taking a knee while the players stood, but decided not to, he said. He changed his mind when several players approached him and asked if they could.

“I asked them to tell me why” they wanted to kneel, Barber said. The players explained not only that they had seen San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick do the same in the NFL but that they understood why.

After receiving approval from all of the players’ parents and the Bulls’ executive board, the entire team knelt on the sideline with their hands on each other’s shoulders. The Bulls went on to beat the Pasadena Panthers 27-0. It wasn’t until Saturday night that Barber realized people were talking—and texting and posting.

The reaction was mixed. Some, like King and Kaepernick, expressed support for the Bulls, but there was also a significant amount of vitriol lobbed at the players. “There’s been a lot of hate,” April Parkerson, the mother of a Bulls player, told the Enterprise. Online commenters have used the n-word, said the Bulls should have burned in the 9/11 terrorist attack, and threatened to lynch the coaches and players. “We have someone who commented, ‘kill them all,’ in response to someone who was showing support for our organization,” Parkerson told KTRK. Even the Bulls former coach Tre Martin came out against the protest, telling KHOU that it’s “a travesty, it is awful, it is wrong as it can be. Those kids don’t understand what’s going on. I mean, some of them do, but most of those babies don’t know why they’re kneeling other than their coach told them.”

Still, the death threats alone are indicative that racism is age-blind, so it’s hard to believe that a group of black children would be unaware of the problems Kaepernick is protesting against. Kids of all ages are exposed to graphic videos of fatal police shootings that make the rounds on social media. Tamir Rice was just twelve-years-old when he was shot and killed by police in Cleveland. “Even though we’re kids, we can still get the information and know about the stuff that’s going on,” Parkerson’s eleven-year-old son, Jaelun, told KTRK.

Meanwhile, the team took a collective knee during the anthem for the second straight week on Saturday:

Despite the death threats, it seems like the Bulls will continue their protest. “We plan on kneeling every Saturday until the football season is done,” Parkerson told KTRK.

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  • José

    These young men were asked why they joined in this silent, peaceful protest and they answered. Now let’s turn around and ask folks why they think it’s their place to criticize the boys, especially in such an ugly and hateful way.

    • TrialDog

      Ah, but the young men have the intestinal fortitude to make their statement publicly and openly. Those making ugly and hateful comments are no doubt hiding behind the anonymity of the internet. So we (and the reporters) don’t have the opportunity to ask the anonymous commenters why they say what they do.

  • Keith Babberney

    A person might be twelve years old. A person might be a twelve-year-old. Saying a person is “twelve-years-old” is just a blatant error.

  • Keith Babberney

    Once again, I embarrassed to see some of my fellow Texans in action. Death threats against children are among the most cowardly, abhorrent acts I can imagine. I am proud of these boys and their coaches for understanding the Constitution better than many presumed adults in their community.

  • JCJ Bike

    This isn’t 11 year old kids… this is the parents and coaches trying to use the most visible outlet they have to make their own moronic points. They blame police for arresting the thugs in their community… they blame police for responding with necessary force when that thug resists arrest or threatens them…

    Taking a knee in some kind of misguided protest to white, asian, and latino Americans has, and will continue to do absolutely nothing to fix the perceived problems.

    If a white guy commits a crime and gets arrested… and resists arrest and gets roughed up, white people say “good… you idiot… you broke the laws and threatened the people tasked with protecting us… you deserve what you got.” Black people blame the police and call the whole thing racism.

    You can’t fix “stupid.”