Oak Park River Forest football players, band members kneel during anthem

More than a dozen Oak Park and River Forest High School football players were joined by more than 40 band members in kneeling during the national anthem before Friday night’s varsity game in Oak Park.

Prior to the Huskies’ game against Downers Grove North High School, several football players, cheerleaders and band members knelt during the national anthem, which was played over the stadium’s PA system and not by the marching band. Though the crowd mostly watched the display without comment, some complained in the stands, and at least one man angrily denounced the protest.

Band member and OPRF senior Jonathan Banks, II, said he spoke to his parents before deciding to kneel, and said they told him they supported his decision, whatever it was.

“They said they understand the power of what your actions could do, and they were all for positive actions,” Banks said. “They said as long as I was doing it for the right reasons, they were all for it.”

NFL players began kneeling months ago, and gained attention with the participation of then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who said he was trying to raise awareness of social injustice and racism. The movement gained national prominence recently, after President Donald Trump criticized NFL players participating in the protest. Some Evanston High School girls volleyball, cheerleaders, band members and varsity football team members have knelt during the anthem in recent games this week, as did a New Trier High School football player at a game Thursday night.

In Oak Park, head football coach John Hoerster said he discussed the demonstration and its meaning with his players during their annual post-practice meeting on Thursday.

“We’re 100 percent supportive of it,” Hoerster said. “We had a really long discussion about it and some of the inequities and some of the things that our kids face on a daily basis. We’re here to…

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