An Illinois high school football team stood with law enforcement and other emergency responders during the national anthem at their homecoming game on Friday night.
The Maschoutah Indians football team in Mascoutah, Ill. walked hand and hand and shoulder to shoulder with police, fire fighters and EMS officials before their game against the Triad Knights. The Indians’ athletic director Scott Battas had the idea to honor the military and emergency responders since the beginning of the school year. Battas, his players and police met last week to discuss their decision to stand with police during the national anthem and left with no second thoughts.
Their decision to stand during the national anthem with police and others comes after the Jason Stockley verdict and the protests that have followed. It’s also happening after a number of NFL players have protested police brutality and racial inequality by kneeling during the national anthem.
Though, the gesture was being worked on before those issues became at the public forefront, the players felt they needed to do it.
"We wanted to show that sign of unification and solidarity amongst the people,” said running back Darius Cooley.
Offensive lineman for the team Nick Thurston has family in the military. He said his dad served for 26 years. Thurston is like most kids at Mascoutah high school. More than 50 percent of the school’s students have parents in the military.
"We are trying to prove that you can do more to bring a positive light to a situation than be so negative," said Thurston.
Their statement to stand with police and emergency responders was not a political one. It was a statement of unity.
“I hope people go home and realize there is good, we can do good and this was a great way," Thurston said.
Head coach Josh Lee talked to his players ahead of the football game about the moment and what their gesture means..
“"I want you to understand and know that you are a part of something bigger than yourself,” said Lee. "We have an opportunity and a platform to do something special for people who have done nothing but serve."
Trooper Calvin Dye with the Illinois State Police said more than 30 percent of his officers have a military background. He said the fact teenagers would want to make this kind of statement is gratifying.
"One of the proudest moments of my career,” he said. Considering all of the negativity police are getting from the press and society right now in general."
The Indians lost their homecoming game to the Knights by a score of 17-7.