All participants and fans stood to honor the flag at last weeks Section 3A Volleyball Tournament.

Kneeling! Is it a proper protest?

Is kneeling or sitting during the playing of the National Anthem a proper way for athletes to protest what they feel is social injustice? Or, is it dishonoring our nation’s flag and those who have fought for our rights and freedom?

With Veteran’s Day coming up on Nov. 11, we decided to test the local views of both sides of the spectrum, polling several former and current Minneota High School football players and coaches, along with local military veterans and law enforcement officers.

Bryce Bruner is included in both of these categories; as a former Minneota football player who is currently serving in the military. The responses were overwhelmingly against the protests, although a disclaimer should be added that no African Americans were polled.

And nearly everyone polled stressed their responses were not related to any type of racial issue and they would feel the same way no matter which ethnic group were protesting.

Feeling that white police officers were unfairly targeting and shooting blacks after a number of instances in recent years, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to protest by sitting on a bench during the playing of the National Anthem in a game last season.

The move enticed more NFL players, the majority of them African Americans, to protest by kneeling, holding a fist in the air, sitting on the ground and stretching, or even ducking into a tunnel instead of being on the field during the National Anthem.

Numerous veterans, those currently serving in the military, police officers, and many NFL fans have expressed their displeasure with the protests, feeling the action was disrespectful to the flag and to those who put their life on the line, or have died for our country.

Previously in football, “taking a knee” was commonly referred to as a quarterback going down on one knee after receiving the snap from center to signify the completion of the play.

This move results in intentionally running out the clock to preserve a lead at the end of the game, or if they are trapped deep in their own zone prior to halftime.

There are other reasons we go down on one knee, such as proposing marriage or praying. Perhaps the most significant of all is when we “take a knee” to honor a fallen soldier at his/her grave as the silhouettes at Veterans Park in Minneota signify.

But when we hear the term “taking a knee” now, we assume an NFL player is protesting during the playing of the National Anthem. What the National Football League is now experiencing is that television ratings have fallen, fan attendance has dropped, and some companies have stopped advertising because of these protests.

Professional athletes are insisting that they are not disrespecting the flag, yet continue to protest the flag and the anthem instead of finding another avenue to appease those opposed.

Because professional athletes can be so impressionable on the younger generation, we figured it would only be fair to include the young current and former Minneota football players. What we discovered is many of these young men are “standing” up for the veterans and police officers and would like to see the protesters to keep politics out of sports.

We posed these questions to those young athletes and their coaches, as well as a few local veterans and law enforcement personnel: “How do you feel about NFL players protesting during the playing of the National Anthem, and what would you like to see as a resolve?"


Alex Pohlen, Senior quarterback/cornerback – “I believe it is an alienable right for any American to protest. It is tough for me to say that I agree or disagree with National Anthem protest because I have no direct attachment to it. However, I do think that protesting about police brutality is an okay thing to do. But I wish Colin Kaepernick and current NFL players could do it in a different way. I think the only way to gain support for their movement is to stop kneeling during the National Anthem and come up with a different form of protest.”

Landon Abraham, Senior linebacker/receiver – “I disagree with taking a knee during the National Anthem. I think it’s a sign of disrespect toward our country. Our country offers the freedom and opportunity to play football. So I think we should be giving back to our country by standing and being alert during the National Anthem. I would like to see kneeling during the anthem banned in the NFL and all sporting events. I think players should find a different way of protesting political issues without disrespecting the flag. I feel there is a different way players can get their messages out without disrespecting what our country stands for.”

Isaac Hennen, Senior wingback/free safety – “I believe that the NFL players should not kneel during the National Anthem. I understand they are trying to use their platform as a professional athlete to protest injustices throughout the nation. However, I feel that there are better ways to do this than by kneeling or sitting during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.”

Brant Buysse, Senior receiver/cornerback – “I disagree with the NFL players who are protesting in this way. I believe this form of protesting is immature. Too many men and women have died for the American flag to be disrespected this way. I would like to see the protesting stop. However, if they must protest, it should be in a way that is generated more towards present-day politics. NFL football players need to consider how many veterans, who risked their lives, are being disrespected.”

Trent Esping, Senior tackle – “I do not agree with the idea of kneeling for the National Anthem. However, I understand that the players may not agree with what is happening in our country. But that does not mean that they need to disrespect the men and women that have sacrificed their lives to allow this country to be free. What I would like to see done with this is for the players that kneel during the anthem to possibly start a foundation to find a plan to try and change what they think is wrong with this country.”

Leo Buysse, 2016 graduate – “I feel as an American you have the right to display your political stance. However, these players need to realize what standing for the anthem means. It’s a sign of respect to the fallen, the forgotten, and the active duty men and women who protect us every day. As an NFL player, you are a role model for younger players and not standing for your country is teaching young kids to be disrespectful. I would like to see the commissioner make a rule that all players and faculty must stand for the anthem.”

Austin Buysse, 2014 graduate – “I disagree with the players kneeling. I believe there is a time and place for these situations to be addressed, and I believe that during the anthem is not the time to do it. We have had many people fight for our freedoms and what our flag represents in this country. Respecting the flag is a big deal to me. I just hope that it’s not a problem in the future. We have so many more issues that we can focus on. Although this topic is important, I hope it can soon be resolved in a positive manner.”

Tanner Differding, 2017 graduate – “I disagree with the players taking a knee during the National Anthem. Kneeling during the anthem is disrespecting every man and woman who has served this great country. I would like to see all players stand for the anthem. If they refuse, then there should be some sort of a punishment. They are paid to play the game, not to make a political statement.”

Chad Johnston, Minneota head coach – “I understand that we live in a country that allows us freedom of speech and I understand these players are using the platform provided them. But I feel there are better ways to get their point across. I do like the teams that are choosing to stand arm-in-arm during the anthem. They are standing together as a team in support of the cause. They can still gather attention to their cause, but in a fashion that is not misinterpreted as being disrespectful to the flag. I believe it is up to the league to figure out how to handle this. I’m in favor of setting fines for players that choose to disregard league rules and continue to kneel.”

Matt Myrvik, Minneota Activities Director and Assistant Coach – “Whether one agrees with the action or not, sitting or kneeling during the National Anthem is a protected First Amendment right, and we cannot disallow an athlete from sitting or kneeling during the anthem. I think discussing the issue and talking about it is a great start (to finding a way to appease both sides of the issue).”


Bill Bolt, Minneota Chief of Police – “I think the method of protest is in poor taste, counterproductive and unsupported by Department of Justice and FBI statistics, along with several studies. I would like to see people treat each other as they would like to be treated. I would like to see laws obeyed during protests. I would like to see the end of hypocrisy. I would like to see people practicing what they preach. We are all talking about the protests, but very few are talking about the ‘why’ and the fact that data fails to support the assertion.”

Byron Higgin, Army Sergeant, Vietnam War — “I’m a patriot, so I don’t stand for not honoring our American Flag or America. I do, however, believe the players should have an outlet for making a difference when it comes to public and political issues. But it should not be on the field; nor should it desecrate the American Flag. The players should formulate a unified voice to take their concerns to the public and address them on a major network. And they should be supported for doing so.”

Royal Hettling, Army Sergeant, Vietnam War – “When our National Anthem is played, everyone should stand with their right hand over their heart, or by rendering a proper military salute. This is not the appropriate time to make any statements of any nature. This is the time that we show our respect to our country for the freedom and the rights that we have. Anyone who refuses to stand for the anthem is showing complete disrespect to the flag, our country, and to the people who have served this country in uniform. The NFL players in question are behaving in a very childish manner and are not a favorable role model for our young people to follow. If they feel strong enough on some issue, there is an appropriate time and place to make their objections known.”

Joel Walerius, Lyon County Sheriff’s Deputy – “Police are not targeting blacks. They are targeting criminals and crime. I find it interesting that NFL players are protesting oppression when they are making multi-millions and are doing well for themselves. They need to find others ways of protesting, other than kneeling for a flag that others died for and gave them the rights they currently have. The answer is to stop promoting racism. Racism is not the issue. Poor human choices are the issue.”

Omer Laleman, Army PFC, Korean War – “Why pick on the flag to protest? These protesting NFL players should be standing at attention with their hand on their forehead and saluting instead of kneeling or sitting. These players are making millions and millions of dollars. What do they have to complain about? My feeling is that if anyone wants to dishonor the flag like they are doing, they should be fired and kicked out of the country.”

Bryce Bruner, 2016 graduate, Army PFC – “I feel it is their right to choose whether they kneel or stand during the National Anthem, as long as they are still paying attention and showing that they care for our country by putting their hand over their heart. What I do not find acceptable is jumping around, warming up and walking back and forth during the anthem. It shows complete disrespect for our troops, and it sets a bad example for all the fans and younger kids that look up to them. As a solution, I feel as if they should get a couple of warnings. For example; first offense, maybe a fine. Second offense, ejected from the game and a fine. And third offense, suspended from the league they are participating in.”

Minneota football players all stood for the National Anthem. Staff Photo by Byron Higgin.

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