Before the start of the game against Del Norte on Sept. 6, seniors Brandon Lopez and JaJuan Lane, freshman Keenan Terbet, and sophomore Jacob Waterman are pictured kneeling during the national anthem. (Amelia St. Martin)
Before the start of the game against Del Norte on Sept. 6, seniors Brandon Lopez and JaJuan Lane, freshman Keenan Terbet, and sophomore Jacob Waterman are pictured kneeling during the national anthem.

Amelia St. Martin

Sophomore Jacob Waterman Becomes First La Salle Athlete to Kneel During National Anthem, Inspiring Others to Join Him

September 11, 2019

At last Friday’s football game in Crescent City, California against Del Norte, Jacob Waterman, a sophomore, knelt during the national anthem to bring attention to racial inequality in the United States, and he plans to continue to kneel at every football game this season.

As the first student at La Salle to take part in this national protest, Waterman stated, “I think kneeling in front of an audience will bring attention to [the problem].”

Since Colin Kaepernick, a former NFL quarterback for the San Fransisco 49ers, knelt for the national anthem during a preseason NFL game in 2016, he has inspired many others, including Waterman, to do the same with the hope of bringing attention to the treatment of racial minorities in America.

Kaepernick faced extensive criticism for his repeated kneeling that season. Critics, including President Donald Trump, say kneeling during the anthem shows disrespect to the military, country, and flag. In a tweet, he stated, “The NFL players are at it again – taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem.”

However, Waterman specifically stated that he is not kneeling to oppose veterans and the military.

“I just want to bring attention to the subject and create a community that’s more inclusive and more respectful towards people and their differences,” said Waterman, who hopes that “people are going to realize that it’s not about disrespecting our military, but it’s more towards the greater problem that’s happening in our country.”

Waterman was motivated by Kaepernick to kneel. His initial desire to publicly protest came during the 2018 football season, but the ultimate decision between Waterman and coaches was for him to sit out the national anthem from the locker room, because he was a freshman who still needed to further establish himself as a member of the team.

“Last year, I was more nervous to do it because I was alone as a freshman… This year I have friends who are willing to do it with me and it makes me feel more comfortable,” Waterman said.

Head football coach, Mr. Aaron Hazel, stated that “[the coaching staff] is going to support him just like how we would support any of our players that you don’t agree with… we’re going to reiterate that we support them.”

“We have a lot of great men on our staff that wanted to support him, but also wanted to make sure he is prepared for… the negative side of people not understanding,” he said. “We’ve talked a lot about how we’re going to handle this and make sure that our kids feel safe and supportive.”

Mr. Shawn Kelly, one of the team’s assistant coaches, has decided to place a hand on Waterman’s shoulder during the anthem to show his regard for Waterman’s decision. “[I want] to emphasize that my hand on his shoulder is about supporting Jacob as a student here at La Salle and validating his experience as a student as well as a person,” he said.

When asked to comment on the situation, Peter Weber, the executive director of the Oregon School Activities Association, explained that the OSAA does not have a formal policy on kneeling during the national anthem and leaves it up to each individual school and school district to decide a course of action.

In an interview with The Falconer, Mr. Andrew Kuffner, La Salle’s principal and president, explained that in situations like this, the school’s “expectation would be that beforehand, they would have a conversation with their coach and their team, and… they would be prepared to respond to a potential negative community response.”

Mr. Kuffner further explained that prior to Waterman making his final decision, he met every requirement asked of him by the administration. “In this case, hearing the process that Jacob went through, he did everything,” he said.

Mr. Kuffner believes that the cultural divide surrounding athletes choosing to kneel is “a statement of how little capacity we have right now, as a society, to engage in thoughtful dialogue.”

Waterman is not the only one choosing to kneel. Religious Studies teacher Thomas McLaughlin Jr., also known as Mr. Mac, along with team members Keenan Terbet, a freshman, and seniors Brandon Lopez and JaJuan Lane, are kneeling with him on the field.

“I wanted to help him… on his mission of creating a better atmosphere and create awareness for the cruel truth he wants to put out there,” Lopez said.

Due to the controversy, several other members on the team declined to comment about Waterman’s decision to kneel.

Mr. Mac’s decision to kneel with Waterman is influenced by his past involvement in the US Military.

“I am a former US Air Force Officer… and for years I haven’t sang the national anthem… but I stand and I pray,” he said. “I pray for peace and I pray for unity for people of all colors. Being together, I envision a world without boundaries.”

Mr. Mac said that he is very proud of Waterman and his “courageous” decision to kneel.

“A lot of the attention has been on police brutality, but more broadly, the injustices that African Americans still face in this country,” he said. “As a white man, I have much more responsibility and positions of privilege and power to make changes than people of color. If I don’t use that position, and if I don’t use my knowledge in my belief that the injustice is happening and do something about it, then I can’t really call myself a Christian. I can’t call myself a good human being.”

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About the Writer
Photo of Maggie Rasch
Maggie Rasch, Editor

Maggie is a junior at La Salle. She is the varsity volleyball captain at La Salle and a member of student council. Outside of school, she works at Dutch...


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  • L

    LaMarcus JohnsonSep 20, 2019 at 10:19 am

    I truly respect the courage these boys have. I understand kneeling during the national anthem is to bring attention to racial inequality in our country; however, have the boys that kneeled or any members of staff taken further steps to help solve this problem? If they have I’d be very interested, but I do think that simply bringing attention to a problem won’t help at all. I just hope that Jacob is using this attention that he has captured in the correct ways; compared to another “hopeful” story that seem to always pop up. Also, my best wishes to the La Salle football team, I know the team has struggled lately.

  • D

    Dennis KellySep 13, 2019 at 10:37 am

    Courage manifests itself in many ways. For those young men to peacefully express themselves with the goal of, even in a small way, helping to right the all-too-apparent wrongs we are experiencing right now is very couragious. Before you pass judgement read the article. This isn’t protesting the country, the flag, the military – it’s encouraging unity, acceptance, growth and strength. My son’s grandfathers both fought in World War II for those exact values. Values worth fighting for now. This isn’t being disrespectful – IMO quite the contrary – it’s a demonstration of support for those that currently are and those that previously fought for those values and want to help our country recover from it’s present state.

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. To Jacob and his fellow athletes, students and staff – you are all good men… and woman. Stay courageous….

  • T

    Timshel TarbetSep 13, 2019 at 10:10 am

    Being a Veteran and coming from a lone line of military members I want to say I respect the boys decision. This has nothing to do with the military, the boys are expressing their free speech, which is one of the reasons I chose to serve this country.

    Thank you boys for being brave enough to express yourself in a respectful manner even when you know you will face adults who won’t show you that same respect.
    Thank you LaSalle for supporting the growth of individuals who are encouraged to express themselves, even when they don’t agree with everyone else.
    Thank you to the coaching staff for supporting the growth of the boys into men.

    Timshel Tarbet
    USAF Veteran, mom of Active Duty Army son, Daughter of Marine, Granddaughter of Army paratrooper

  • J

    Juli WatermanSep 13, 2019 at 8:13 am

    In response to Stanley- I am sorry you have such anger inside you. I am sure that there’s another forum for you to vent your anger that’s more appropriate. Some of the kids kneeling have military and air force immediate family retired now serving and that have died for our country. Maybe you didn’t read about Mr Mac’s Background and story. These boys wouldn’t have so much support from educated fully aware of the cause individuals if this is as you vent above.. It’s not as you claim or about what you are so angry about. Your anger is the division and what keeps the atrocities alive for what these boys are kneeling for.. I will pray for you, Juli Waterman

  • K

    Kari TunstillSep 13, 2019 at 6:03 am

    Very inspiring young men and Mr. Mac! We all need constant reminders about inequalities and injustice. These young men are not letting us forget. Keep it up!! And of course Mr. Mac is kneeling. He is a man of integrity, care for others, and reflection. Take notice standing boys.

  • G

    Gina BjorvikSep 12, 2019 at 11:57 pm

    A wonderfully written and insightful article, Maggie. I knew I’d be witnessing this take place on Friday night and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I have a feeling I would not have looked upon it too favorably. However, after reading your article I’m feeling more accepting and more understanding of this young man’s (and some of his fellow teammates) choice and the journey he’s on. And while I still don’t agree with kneeling during the National Anthem I am impressed and inspired with Jacob’s (and the others) bravery and willingness to put himself out there for what he believes in. He sounds like a strong young man. I really like what Coach Hazel said about supporting the athletes and making sure they feel safe no matter what. Coach Kelly’s show of support and validation by placing a hand on Jacob’s shoulder is awesome too. The LS football coaching staff rocks and their commitment to the players is awesome. The football players are lucky to have such committed coaches and strong male figures in their lives.

  • S

    StanleySep 12, 2019 at 10:34 pm

    This is a disgrace to the men & women who’ve died defending our freedom. There’s a time & place for what these boys are wanting to represent, but this should NOT be during our national anthem. They might as well go spit in the faces of family members who’ve lost loved ones fighting for our country. Don’t follow in the footsteps of a man who’s actions only divided our people even greater. Instead follow a man that only brings our people closer together.

  • J

    Juli WatermanSep 12, 2019 at 6:58 am

    Watching Jacob Navigate through this process has been life changing. People are talking weather supporting or not they are talking and that’s where change begins. I am so proud of you Jacob. I am in awe of your courage, and will to have a voice in this world. As Jacobs mom I am moved to no end the support he has around him. The coaches, La Salle administration , parents and the students that are courageous in their support as well! I pray that those that are adverse to This can open their hearts and minds. No one puts themselves out there like this if there’s not a real need for change and awareness! I am so proud of you Jacob Waterman!
    Blessings, Juli Waterman

  • D

    Dr. MeekeSep 11, 2019 at 9:21 pm

    I applaud Jacob Waterman and his courage to speak from his heart about what this means to him. It’s not as simple as the act means the same to everyone. Jacob is offering others to state what it means to them so we can all understand each other from their own world view and experiences. Very inspiring!