AUGUSTA, Ga.- Tuesday, a Richmond County school board member proposed that student athletes and band members who wear school-bought uniforms face suspension if they don’t stand during the national anthem.
It all started when NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem in August. He actions have elicited widespread criticism, but they’ve also inspired similar protests that have even trickled down to high school teams.Some local officials want to make sure that dosen’t become an issue here.
Tuesday, the Richmond County Board of Education approved more than $28,000 for 70 new band uniforms at Cross Creek high school. Then the conversation turned to a different matter.
District 7 member Frank Dolan said that if board was going to pay for those uniforms, the wearers should stand for the national anthem or be suspended from that extracurricular.
“I think I understood where Frank was coming from very sincerely,” said board member Jack Padgett. “I had not been to a game and actually seen it, but I’ve seen it on TV with the pros and all.”
Superintendent Angela Pringle requested the board wait on voting, saying she needed time to research the issue and the potential consequences.
“We did have some kids kicked off the team because lack of respect, so whether this fits into that would be another question,” Padgett said. “And here again, I think when Dr. Pringle brings back her recommendations, or at least, maybe not recommendations, but her discussion on what’s legal, what’s not legal…and I think that’s the major question.”
But another major question is: what if all of a team, cheer squad, or band protest?
“Young folks will try you,” said Marion Barnes, vice president of the Richmond County School Board. “And if supposing everybody on the team decides to do that? Then the game is cancelled. Then what happens to the people in the stand?”
Board member Jack Padgett says he believes the board’s decision next month will be a close one.
“I don’t like the idea of them kneeling or protesting the national anthem or the flag,” Barnes said. “That irks me a great deal, but I do support their right to do what is guaranteed to them by the constitution.”
He says it’s the taxpayers who are paying for those uniforms, so if the taxpayers want those who take a knee during the national anthem suspend…they’re the ones who need to make that known. He also says the ban would inevitably invite lawsuits, which the taxpayers would also be responsible for. But he says he will support the board’s decision either way.