Football Coach Teaches 8-Year-Olds To Kneel During National Anthem After Ex-Cop Was Acquitted

The eight-year-old members of the Belleville Junior Comanches football team kneeled during the national anthem.

The eight-year-old members of the Belleville Junior Comanches football team kneeled during the national anthem.

Eight-Year-Olds Taught To Kneel During Anthem

Belleville, IL – Public outrage is building over photos that show Orlando “Doc” Gooden leading his football team in kneeling during the National Anthem at a game on Sunday, September 17 in a support of the St. Louis protesters. The players also had their back to the flag.

The Junior Comanches team players are eight-years-old. Gooden is the head coach of the Cahokia Quarterback Club football team (8 and under), according to Todd Eschman with Belleville News-Democrat.

The team is located in Belleville, an Illinois suburb of St. Louis, where Friday’s not guilty verdict of former St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley in the officer-involved shooting and death of Anthony Lamar Smith.  The verdict has resulted in three straight days of protest, and nights of riots, vandalism, and police officers assaulted.

Gooden said, “One of the kids asked me if I saw [people] protesting and rioting in St. Louis. I said yes; I said, ‘Do you know why they are doing it?”  He said that the player replied, “Because black people are getting killed, and nobody’s going to jail.”

He said that he “felt like it was a good teaching moment for me to circle the team and have a meeting.”

Gooden said that he took the opportunity to talk to the players about former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and how he started kneeling during the national anthem in protest of racial justice in America.  He said that the kids asked if they could do the same.

His reply was, “As long as we know why we’re doing it, I don’t have a problem with any of it.”  He said that it was not his idea but the kids’ idea. Again, the children are 8-years-old.

Video showed the entire football team and two coaches kneeling as someone sang ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’.

Gooden said that he had nothing to do with the kids’ decision, that they “brought up the subject and led the discussion. I feel like once a child shows interest in a topic, you have to talk to them and teach them what you can.”

Gooden also told his players that “kneeling is a show of respect, not for those who broke boundaries — I support only peaceful protest — but for the innocent lives that have been touched by injustice.”  He said that the players’ parents supported him.