Los Altos High School football players Nemin Htet and Mohamed Fofanah took a knee during the national anthem before their team’s game against Wilcox High Sept. 23 at Levi’s Stadium.
It happened on the same field that Colin Kaepernick – who last season kneeled during the anthem to protest violence against minorities – formerly played on as quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers.
Htet said he and Fofanah kneeled “because of what (President Donald) Trump said about NFL players” the day before. Trump criticized players who don’t stand for the anthem and said they should be fired.
Fofanah said he and Htet have tremendous respect for the game of football and the stadium they were playing in, but they wanted “people in the community to be aware.”
It’s not the first time the athletes have taken such action. They have been taking a knee during the anthem since the first game of the season to symbolize their opposition to inequality and inequity of black and brown people in the United States.
“I am aware of the mistreatment of minorities through police brutality and through my experiences as an African male,” Fofanah said.
Teammate Axel Rodriguez also considered kneeling at Levi’s Stadium but changed his mind once the anthem began to play.
“I wanted to respect the stadium, since we were all personally invited there,” he said.
But Rodriguez, who had kneeled at previous games, added that he regretted his decision not to do so Sept. 23.
Rodriguez, a Mexican-American, said his family members are fearful that the Trump administration will rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, so he intends to kneel at future games to honor DACA immigrants and to protest Trump’s behavior. He noted that Trump has shown little respect for his position as president, so why should players show respect under a flag and a nation that continues to discriminate against people of color?
Rodriguez, Fofanah and Htet said they have received tremendous support from their coaches and trainers, who have stood alongside the boys with a hand on their shoulders during the protests.
Jayme Albritton, a junior at Mountain View High School, writes for the Oracle, the student newspaper.