Foothill League football teams address potential protests during national anthem

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On Friday nights, across the three fields where Foothill League football games take place, trumpets blare in unison, whispers float from flutes and drums echo a collective rat-a-tat-tat.

“Oh, say can you see,” is the phrase heard in each head of each person in the band, spectator in the stand and player on the field. Well, sometimes.

Golden Valley is the only team to take the field for The Star-Spangled Banner every time it is played before games.

For Canyon, Hart, Saugus, Valencia and West Ranch, the varsity football team could be in the locker room, on the way to the field or on the field, depending on the night.

Recent events in the National Football League have brought anthem etiquette to attention. Prep football teams’ schedules, at least in the Foothill League, can make it difficult to plan out when a team can get on the field.

“We certainly never go out of our way to avoid being out there,” said Wildcats coach Chris Varner, who is also a United States Army veteran.

“…It’s not like the NFL or college anything where it’s time stamped around TV where you can say the anthem is playing at this sort of time or however it is.”

The Grizzlies’ reason for taking the field has two facets. The first is that it’s been tradition to take the field for years. The second is that coach Dan Kelley likes to keep his players on the field for as long as possible before the game starts.

“I don’t believe in taking a kid in and having him sit down and listen to me for 10 minutes then they go back out and play a game,” he said. “We want to get them as warm as they can and just get them out there and get them going.”

Greensburg Central Catholic, a high school in western Pennsylvania, recently announced that they will stand on the field for the national anthem before games as opposed to sit in the locker room, as was the previous practice.

“…This is the right thing to do,” said GCC head coach Aaron Smetanka said in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Parkway High School of Bossier Parish, Louisiana issued a statement this week saying that athletes who do not stand for the national anthem could see “loss of playing time and/or participation as directed by the head coach and principal.”

The CIF-Southern Section has no policy that punishes players for not being present for the anthem or for making a demonstration during the song.

The Hart District, however, does have guidelines.

“Students have the right to exercise their first amendment rights, as long as it does not disrupt educational activities, nor are they allowed to disrupt the choice of others to participate in a traditional fashion,” said Hart District spokesman Dave Caldwell via email.

Foothill League coaches had mixed thoughts as to how a demonstration during the national anthem might be handled, or if it could even happen at all.

“Obviously we live in a free country and people are allowed to express their feelings any time they wish,” Kelley said, “so I don’t want to make a kid do something he doesn’t want to do.

“But at the same time, if we feel like everybody is going to (hold a demonstration), we’ll take a vote. Maybe we won’t come out for the national anthem.”

Indians coach Mike Herrington and Cowboys coach Rich Gutierrez said that they don’t believe we’ll be seeing displays from high school athletes in the Santa Clarita Valley any time soon.

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