By Joshua Vasquez, Courier Sports Editor
Recently, NPR published an article on a fellow student, Sasha Armbrester. To the surprise of many, conservative news outlets Breitbart and The Daily Caller reprinted the article to a national audience, creating quite a stir of emotions.
The article itself spoke mostly in relation to the perceived racial injustices Armbrester felt weighing upon herself and our country. It also addressed the actions of sports athletes such as Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players: simply taking a knee.
It seemed that Armbrester felt agitated by the recurring events and decided to spread the national headline even more by taking a knee alongside fellow cheerleaders during James Logan’s Friday night Football games.
Armbrester wrote, “When Colin Kaepernick started taking a knee, a lot of people thought he was being unpatriotic. But for me and the other black cheerleaders on my team, we were inspired. We saw an opportunity to call attention to racial injustice. So we began taking a knee too.”
Her story hit home with many young listeners and readers across the country. The cheerleaders’ progressive stance against the perceived injustice quickly gained praise at our school, even while receiving covert criticism from many football fans.
Though the protest itself was peaceful and grew popular across the country, parts of the article posted by NPR had some untruthful and misleading statements. In particular, Armbrester interviewed one of our teammates who misrepresented one of our coaches’ words. As a result, her misleading statement caused some unwarranted outlash towards the coaches.
In the interview, Armbrester asked one of the football players in our program, Bud Laimont, why he stands for the National Anthem. Laimont replied that “the coaches make us. And I guess it’s like, you’re just supposed to do it.” He said this in an apparent attempt to support the cheerleaders in their act of kneeling.
However, Laimont recently told Armbrester that his words were misunderstood, as explained in the next paragraph. Additionally, he was initially informed that the interview was simply a school assignment, and was surprised to learn that his comments were broadcast for over 30 million people to hear. Unfortunately, both players and coaches were falsely accused, causing many to be misinformed about our coach’s true stance. Readers of the NPR article could be led into thinking our coaches force us to stand, when in fact they do not. Moreover, the article did not have any form of fact checking or further research to corroborate Armbrester’s statement.
Laimont immediately rescinds the article’s representation of his comment and claims he was misunderstood in what he actually said and meant when he said, “It’s just a thing we do.” Laimont said, “As a team, we do not step onto the football field with the mindset of taking a political stance. We just get the National Anthem over with and focus on the game and how we execute our game plan. Yes, I stand, but the coaches don’t force it upon us. We do it from a traditional standpoint, just as thousands of other teams do when they play.” Laimont admits his choice of words was poor and it made it seem that our football team was not allowed to take a knee. He regrets that his mistaken words put our coaches in a bad spotlight. He further commented, “I didn’t know that this was going to be published for the entire country to hear and I’m upset that I wasn’t notified prior to its publication.”
The culture that the Logan staff and its principal Abhi Brar has created enables students to be who they are, free from persecution. That same ideology resonates from the coaching staff throughout the entire football team.
Head Varsity Football Coach, Zac McNally, said, “We as coaches encourage our players to be outstanding citizens, students, and athletes. We would never discourage any of our players from standing up, or in this case, kneeling down for what they believe. I have never once communicated to any of my players that they were not allowed to kneel or imply that they may face judgement or punishment if such action was taken. I hope this can be a lesson for all parties involved.”
Speaking for many of the varsity football players, we stand by our coaches and renounce the false implications and perceptions made upon them. At the very least, we recognize that our teammate made an unintentional mistake.
In closing, we applaud Sasha and the Cheer teams bravery for speaking out for what they believe in and support their freedom of expression and speech. However, we have kindly asked for the statement to be rescinded from NPR’s article or that NPR provide a correction to the article to protect our coaches and football program from any unfair judgments.