BUNCOMBE COUNTY, N.C. (WLOS) — Both Buncombe County and Asheville City Schools will allow student-athletes to kneel during the national anthem as a form of silent expression when high school sports return.
“Our guidance to teachers and coaches regarding this issue is: Kneeling on the football field during the anthem or even kneeling in the school as a form of silent expression is protected free speech,” said Stacia Harris, Director of Communications for Buncombe County School in a statement to News 13. “We use the standard of disruptive or non-disruptive in order to decide how to respond. As long as an act of expression is not disruptive to the school day or event, administrators do not get involved.”
The school’s policy on disruptive behavior says,
A student’s right to free speech will not be infringed upon; however, school officials may place reasonable, constitutional restrictions on time, place and manner in order to preserve a safe, orderly environment.
Asheville City Schools released a statement echoing the Buncombe County stance. "In Asheville City Schools, we place a great value on the thoughts and feelings of our students," said Ashley-Michelle Thubin, Executive Director of Communications for Asheville City Schools in a statement released to News 13. "Yes, we acknowledge that it’s a very real possibility that some of our student-athletes may choose to take a knee during the national anthem. However, in no way will our school district inhibit their ability to do so, as we believe it is a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment.”
As sports slowly start to return to daily life, athletes across the globe have come together in silent protest by taking a knee during the U.S. national anthem before games. In recent history, the practice took off in August 2016 when a handful of athletes, led by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat and later knelt during the national anthem in protest against police brutality and racism in the country.
The resurgence is in alignment with recent protests across the nation following the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Beronna Tylor and George Floyd.
On Saturday, June 27, in the first professional league game since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, players for the North Carolina Courage and the Portland Thorns all took a knee in the opening game of the NWSL Challenge Cup. Since that time, the MLB, WNBA and, most recently, the NBA have all followed suit. On Thursday night, July 30, 2020, just before tipoff in the very first NBA game of the season, players with the New Orleans Pelicans and the Utah Jazz, along with coaches and game officials, all took a knee.