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P.E.I. coaches, players weigh in on taking-a-knee debate

Sean Kelly, who grew up in Boston and plays safety and quarterback with the Holland College Hurricanes, doesn’t feel kneeling during the U.S. national anthem is the appropriate platform, finding it disrespectful to the country.
Sean Kelly, who grew up in Boston and plays safety and quarterback with the Holland College Hurricanes, doesn’t feel kneeling during the U.S. national anthem is the appropriate platform, finding it disrespectful to the country.

Douglas Sawyer of Nassau, Bahamas, sees nothing wrong with NFL players taking a knee during the U.S. national anthem.

“I think it’s a good thing, to be honest,” said Sawyer, who is a defensive back with the Holland College Hurricanes football team. “It shouldn’t be a problem to stand up for what you believe in.”

The controversy began in 2016 when then San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the U.S. national anthem in silent protest against police brutality of African-Americans.

Since then, many NFL players and coaches have joined the movement, causing a great divide among teams, fans, veterans, celebrities and politicians.

Some feel it is disrespecting the flag, while others feel it is shedding light on social and racial injustices.

Seth Vezeau of Kingston, Ont., says people have the right to protest and doesn’t feel it is disrespectful to take a knee during the national anthem.

Seth Vezeau, who plays defensive tackle and defensive end with the Hurricanes, says President Donald Trump has made things worse after he tweeted NFL players who take a knee during the anthem should be fired or suspended.

“He is a fire starter,” said Vezeau of Kingston, Ont.

Head coach Ross Young said as long as Trump keeps attacking NFL players they are going to continue kneeling in solidarity.  

“The one thing about football, it is a brotherhood,” said Young. “Do I like the platform? No. Do I understand why they are doing it? Yes. Would I do it? No.”

Vezeau said NFL players are taking the only platform they have to shed light on the issue of racism in the United States.   

“People like Colin Kaepernick are heroes,” said Vezeau. “They put everything on the line, everything they have worked for just to stand up for what they believe in.”

Douglas Sawyer of Nassau, Bahamas, says he supports NFL players standing up for what they believe in by taking a knee during the U.S national anthem. Sawyer, who plays defensive back with the Holland College Hurricanes, thinks racism is tearing the world apart. “We have to be one.”

However, assistant coach Steve Letner says he doesn’t think this is the right platform for it.

“It doesn’t represent what they are standing for,” said Letner, who is originally from Ohio.

“The (U.S.) national anthem is not about equal rights. It has to do with the fight that took place and the people who died to give you the freedom to do what you are doing on a Sunday.”

Letner said he would be upset if any of his players decided to take a knee.

Sean Kelly, who plays safety and quarterback with the Hurricanes, also doesn’t agree with the platform.

“It’s disrespectful, obviously to the country, but everyone has their own point of view,” said Kelly, who grew up in Boston.

Letner says the debate over taking a knee is 100 per cent taking away from the game.

“I haven’t seen it accomplish one thing,” said Letner. “It has caused more conflict than it has resolution.”

Letner feels NFL players already have a great platform as athletes and feels they should direct their efforts into creating a program where they go into communities to speak about racism and how to overcome it, rather than taking a knee during the anthem.

“You are not doing anything but disrespecting people and that is how people are taking it.”

maureen.coulter@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/MaureenElizaC

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