Colin Kaepernick’s ongoing protest against racial injustice infiltrated a San Francisco high school football team Friday and found a measure of tolerance among fans.
Joining together as one unit, players from Mission High School took a knee during the National Anthem before they played the San Mateo High School team – which remained standing.
“I’m impressed by the maturity of these kids,” David Inson said. “I’m proud of these kids.”
Parent Ukina Sanford agreed.
“We love the United States, but there’s been some injustices and we’re taking a stand in our community,” she said.
Marvin Pusung-Zita, a defensive end on the football squad, was the first Mission High School Bear to drop to one knee before last Saturday's game. His teammates promptly followed suit with the gesture, all in an effort to show solidarity with Kaepernick.
"We were talking about the social injustices in America following Kaepernick and him taking a knee," Pusung-Zita said. "As a team, we all decided to take a knee."
The 49ers signal caller has been under the national spotlight in recent weeks for sitting, then kneeling during renditions of national anthems as part of a protest against racial injustice and police brutality sweeping the nation.
Mission High School Head Coach Greg Hill expected a few of his players to drop to one knee before last weekend's contest, but was immediately surprised to find his entire squad make the social statement. He still decided to stay on his two feet, but was proud of his players for contemplating an issue bigger than the game.
"What I decided to do was support my team by standing for them in support of them," said Hill, who plans to allow the peaceful protest to continue throughout the season.
The school's principal offered a similar sentiment of praise.
"I'm proud of the fact they decided to do this together," Eric Gutherz said. "It's an extremely diverse group of students."
Unlike a private school in New Jersey that reportedly threatened to suspend players who didn’t stand during the National Anthem, Mission High’s team has the support of its principal.
Gutherz said he received some angry calls Friday — as word of his students’ activism spread —but remained unfazed.
“It’s their right to peaceful protest, it’s the American way,” he said.
Although critics have blasted Kaepernick for disrespecting military service members and being un-patriotic, a number of athletes across all fields of play have voiced their support Kaepernick and his message, including teammate Eric Reid, women's professional soccer player Megan Rapinoe and two-time defending NBA MVP Steph Curry.
On Friday, at least one parent from San Mateo described feeling uncomfortable by Mission High's stance.
“I know it’s a very controversial subject,” Christine Semenza said. “I prefer to stand.”