by Luke Francois

Black lives matter.  Blue lives matter.  All lives matter.  How to make sense of these turbulent times? A national debate swept students into discussions around race, the police, and what it means to be a patriot.

Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers quarterback, takes a knee during the National Anthem in protest of racial injustice.  In turn, this sparks high school students across the country to do the same.  In Aurora, Colorado, three-quarters of the football players knelt during the National Anthem.  In Wisconsin, Madison East and Madison West football teams took a knee before the football game.  Most recently, Janesville Parker and Janesville Craig formed a letter “U” on the field in “Unity.”

Does taking a knee or displaying a “U” exercise a Constitutional right to protest or dishonor the flag?

Taking a knee or not is layered with challenging questions and many complexities.  The answer to a complicated question begins with learning together.  Learning about the history of race relations, social injustice, and patriotism is at the foundation of the solution.  Regardless, the answer ultimately is neither right nor wrong, but rather found in the heart of each.

Recently at a soccer game, an offside was called on an opposing player.  A parent from the opposing team cried out, “Hey ref! He wasn’t offsides; come-on!”  The referee replied, “Settle down; I could clearly see the offsides from my position on the field.”  Play resumed.  The referee had apparently moved on but the parent had not.  I could not hear what was said by the father next, but following was a whistle and a stop in play.  The referee instructed the parent to leave and play would not resume until he had done so.  The sidelines were eerily quiet.  Another parent spoke up, “Let’s go so we can continue play!”  Following, the offensive parent walked quietly off the field with his head down, and the game resumed without further incident.

After the match, I commended the referee for how he handled the matter.  He stated that he was confident in the call and that a secondary reason he ejected the father was for every younger official that the parent would encounter in the future.  By making a stand for what the referee believed was right would hopefully influence the parent to make better decisions in the next game and model for the younger sideline officials how to handle unacceptable behavior.

With student eyes upon adults for guidance, wisdom, and answers, the question is what do you stand for?  A better question is what does your son or daughter stand for?  Parents can be instrumental in the development of critical thinking skills for today’s Generation Z (post-millennial) youth.  

Meanwhile, I remain patient for the country to work through the national debate.  In the meantime, you will find me unwavering as an advocate and champion for equality while standing at contests with my hand over my heart singing the National Anthem.