AMHERST, Mass (WWLP) – With the exception of one player, The Amherst Regional High School Varsity Volleyball team refused to stand for the National Anthem at a game, and some parents are finding the stance disrespectful.
One week later, people are still upset over members of the girls volleyball team refused to stand for the National Anthem. “I felt a little disrespected, you know, being a navy veteran myself,” said parent and Navy Veteran Richard Kagan Jr of Wilbraham.
Amherst Regional Athletic Director Richard Ferro told 22News the students discussed the gesture before the game, and both schools were aware. “As a district we are very supportive of our veterans and our folks who are in law enforcement, but it is this type of political speech which is covered under the first amendment.”
Amherst resident Ric McGinn said this is history repeating itself; “We didn’t always stand for the national anthem and that was our way of saying, ‘Hey, things are not necessarily right in our system or around the world,’ back then it was Vietnam war.”
Amherst squared off against their rival Minnechuag again Friday night, the same team they played one week ago. Despite the National Anthem not being sung at Friday’s game, last weeks stance is still a hot topic among parents.
“For all the men and women who that have died over the years, to protect this country for its freedoms. Wrong place to kinda of do that,” said Kagan.
Athletic director Ferro said the National Anthem for the girl’s volleyball team is only sung at home games in Amherst for special events and tournaments.
Below is an email sent to 22News that was sent to parents from the volleyball coach:
By now, I assume that most of you have heard that the varsity team decided to kneel for the National Anthem at the Minnechaug game. I was unaware of what they had planned until shortly before we arrived on the bus (apparently they had planned it at a team-bonding sleepover), but I supported that decision.
Subsequently, I had a long and thoughtful meeting with my varsity team about how they came about this decision. I wanted to make sure that they had thought about all of the ramifications, and understood that many people will be offended. I also wanted to make sure that everyone on the team felt respected and their opinions valued, and they all, individually, assured me that they did. These are smart, thoughtful, team-oriented girls….one of the nicest groups I have ever coached, and they are very unified. When they knelt, they put their hands over their hearts, to signify that they love their country. They are simply protesting the incidents of police over-reach (to put it mildly), but in no way are they trying to offend veterans or paint all police officers with the same broad brush….they expressed those exact thoughts to me. When I brought up the fact that they have to be prepared for some backlash, one of them stated “So, should no one do what they believe is right, because it might upset someone else? Isn’t this about open discourse, and starting a conversation?” Hard to argue with that.
While it admittedly makes me uncomfortable (maybe being from a generation that did not encourage young women to be outspoken and to “rock the boat”), I do not feel that I have the right to dictate to them what to believe or how to express those beliefs…these are 16-18 year olds, trying to figure out what they believe, and supporting their black teammates and friends. I came away from the meeting feeling reassured that they had not made this decision lightly, and incredibly impressed with their maturity and strength. I am hoping that, regardless of whether we all agree with this course of action, we can all agree that it is their right to do this, as guaranteed by our constitution. These are our girls, and I want them to feel supported, especially when we are in other gyms. The last thing they need is for our own parents to get into confrontations in the stands, so I am asking for you all to just be respectful of each person’s opinions, and to understand that this is a complicated issue that the entire country is grappling with.
Thanks for continuing to support all of our volleyball teams (all three are doing REALLY well), and Libbie, Sue, and I look forward to seeing you at the next match–
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