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Las Vegas high school football coaches weigh in on National Anthem protests

Reverberations from San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest over racial inequality have stretched across the nation’s sports landscape over the past month.

Other NFL players have joined in. So did Team USA women’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe — twice. And on Saturday the Howard University cheerleading squad knelt during the “Star Spangled Banner.”

While a handful of high school football players across the country have followed suit, there haven’t been any reported protests in the Las Vegas area. Still, the protests certainly have area high school coaches examining the issue.

The Review-Journal contacted about half of the varsity football coaches in the area. Many declined to comment. Those who did talked about either listening to their players’ concern or, conversely, taking a hard line on such protests.

At Clark High School, coach Don Willis said last week the administration has had discussions with coaches to see if any athletes had expressed interest in showing any form of protest. Willis said so far no one had said anything to him about it and the goal of the program is to be respectful to the flag and those who have fought for freedoms.

But if an athlete did bring it up to him, it’s something he’d be more than willing to talk about.

“It’s a case-by-case basis, what … they say to me and then I can make my decision,” Willis said. “I don’t think it’s a blanket deal.

”It’s kind of one of those things that would kind of be what their opinion was and what they said to me would go a long way on how we would handle it.”

Foothill coach Marty Redmond took a similar stance, saying if a player chose to protest, he would make sure it was for a legitimate purpose and not to draw attention to himself.

“If it was for the right reasons I would not have a problem with it, but I would prefer to show respect for the people that fought for the freedoms of the country,” Redmond said. “Just as long as they understand both sides of it, and go from there.”

At Faith Lutheran, coach Vernon Fox said the team talked prior to the season about how it should govern itself pregame.

As far as he’s concerned, nothing has changed in his stance or expectations from his players since that conversation and he hasn’t seen any protests with his players.

“Obviously as a black man in America, I understand everything that’s going on, the differing emotions and opinions,” Fox said. “I feel like everyone certainly is entitled to feel how they feel, but at the end of the day, I feel like that is a sacred setting and certainly something that demands respect in regards to all of the men and women that have risked their lives for this country, (who) allow us the opportunity to be in this position that we’re in.”

At Centennial, coach Leon Evans said the administration hadn’t talked to the coaches, and the coaches hadn’t discussed the issue with the players.

“We haven’t, and I don’t think we have to,” Evans said. “We tell the kids this is still the greatest country in the world, and we owe it to the flag to stand up for the flag.

”Whatever you believe or not, we’re still a public high school, and we’re going to stand up and respect the flag.”

If a problem arises at Las Vegas High, coach James Thurman said he would likely turn to the school’s administration to formulate a plan of action.

“Before (anyone) ever even thought about happening — and our kids are pretty good — I told them that ‘You’re a professional athlete making money, you want to take a stance. But right now, playing high school football is a privilege, t’is not a right.’ None of my kids, I think, are going to try anything like that,” Thurman said.

And while no forms of protests have arisen yet at any of the aforementioned Las Vegas area schools, Willis said he thought it could eventually reach the high school level.

“There’s always that possibility,” he said. “I think at some point, it probably will.”

Betsy Helfand can be reached at bhelfand@reviewjournal.com. Follow on Twitter: @BetsyHelfand

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