When a few black players on a peewee football game took a knee for the national anthem, opposing fans in the mostly-white town used racial slurs against the kids, the coach claims. At one point, things were so tense that the police were called.
As the Harrisburg Patriot-News reports, Woodward Hills coach Marcus Burkley, Sr. was in Bethel Park, a predominantly white suburb of Pittsburgh, last weekend for a peewee football game between two teams of 12- and 13-year-olds. When a few black members of his team knelt during the national anthem, a few opposing fans took exception to it in a rather alarming way.
“Once they took a knee, you see cameras and people taking pictures. And out of nowhere you hear, ‘If the little N-word(s) want to take a knee, they shouldn’t be able to play.'”
You may recall that the concept of kneeling — as opposed to standing — during the national anthem has become something of a controversy this fall, ever since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick famously took a knee during a preseason game in protest. Ever since then, athletes at the professional, amateur, and even youth levels have taken a cue from Kaepernick and have knelt during the national anthem.
— KKTV 11 News (@KKTV11News) October 12, 2016
The protest hasn’t sat well with some observers, and such protests have been met with boos, jeers, or post-game criticism on social media. In one particularly startling case out of Alabama, a high school football announcer told the crowd that anyone who didn’t stand for the national anthem was free to line up by a nearby fence so members of the military could shoot them; he later resigned, according to the Inquisitr.
In Bethel Park, in addition to some in the crowd allegedly calling the boys “n*****s,” Burkley says that the refs took their frustrations out on his team on the field. He claims that officials gave his team a total of 200 penalty yards throughout the game, even dropping flags before plays had started.
At one point, even the police were called to keep order.
In a final insult, Burkley says that even the concessions stands turned his players away after the game, according to WPXI (Pittsburgh).
“They just said, ‘We’re not serving you Woodland Hills people. This is for Bethel fans, it’s our senior day.’ But with all that going on, it seemed like another attack.”
It bears noting that, as of this writing, only Burkley’s side of the story has been presented. A Patriot-News reporter attempted to contact the police to confirm that they were called to the game but has not yet received confirmation. Similarly, attempts to reach a Bethel Park Junior Football League official for comment have not been successful. A WPXI reporter, however, was able to reach Paul Currie, the president of the Bethel Park Junior Football League. Currie said he was not aware of Burkley’s allegations, but if true, he does not condone that behavior.
On Sunday, Burkley took to Facebook to share his story on social media.
Comments on Burkley’s post have largely been positive and supportive of the coach and the young men on his team.
Allyson Orwig wrote, “You are raising young men– Men that will one day run our society. They are faced with adversity and challenges but being a leader to them and teaching the correct way makes you a true coach!”
Others were not so supportive. In a post that has since been deleted, another Facebook user offered Burkley a free ticket out of the country.
“You’re letting 12-year-old kids kneel during the national anthem?? you have no respect for the country you live in. ill buy you a first class ticket to North Korea and you can tell me just how bad it is here.”
[Featured Image by Cynthia Farmer/Shutterstock]