BARBERTON, Ohio (WOIO) - Four high school basketball player’s decision to sit during the national anthem has everyone in Barberton talking, with many attacking the boys for the actions and others defending them.
Shameful, offensive, disrespectful; those are just some of the words people in Barberton are using to describe a group of high school basketball players who sat during the national anthem.
“I wish these patriotic protests would just be taken for what they are,” said local Kristi Evans. “It doesn’t have to be the lightning bolt that it is.”
A mother for one of the players who sat during the national anthem said they want people to comprehend why the kids are doing this.
“It’s just sad that as adults we can’t agree to disagree,” said Candace Cook. “We’re not asking anybody to move their point of view and to agree with why our boys are doing it, we’re just asking them to understand. It’s sad, it’s hurtful.”
D’Lawrence Scott said he’s sat during every national anthem since the season began to protest police brutality. He said it wasn’t until some of his teammates joined him this week that people started talking.
“Our culture, just all over the world, just police brutality stuff like I don’t stand for it, that’s my way of showing I’m with my culture that’s what I stand for,” Lawrence said.
This week, three other basketball players joined Scott in sitting during the anthem.
“He’s my teammate,” said basketball player, Chad Burkhard. “I do this for the support of him.”
Scott said he never expected so much public outcry.
“It’s crazy the reactions that we’re getting I feel like if we not doing nothing wrong I don’t get how they’re attacking us this way,” Scott said. “We get called names stuff like that.”
The boy’s parents’ hope the community will respect the boy’s decision.
“Our boys wanna support him,” said parent, Tabitha Blackmon. “They want to make him feel welcome. There’s no I in team, it’s all a team thing.”
The Barberton School District did put out the following statement, “We are aware of the Barberton High School student-athletes who have chosen not to stand during the pre-game playing of the United States National Anthem. The Barberton City School District supports every student’s right to free speech, as protected by the United States Constitution and supported by Ohio Revised Code (state law)."
Ohio Revised Code 3313.602 states that a school district cannot compel an act of patriotism on the part of a student.
Laws similar to this Ohio state law have been challenged in the United States Supreme Court, dating back to 1943 (West Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624). Then the Supreme Court ruled, “students may not be required to salute the American flag or recite the Pledge of Allegiance at public schools.”
While many people may not share this student’s point of view, as a public school district we are proud of all of our students who are learning important lessons about life that public schools are uniquely suited to teach - that people can hold different beliefs and can still coexist, get along, and even work together toward common goals."