On November fourth, Vice news and HBO released a video about the Berkeley High School Football team’s choice to kneel in unity against racism during the national anthem. The video highlighted the team’s process in planning the protest and also brought attention to the segregational issues present at Berkeley High. The issue of racism at Berkeley High is one that is not often addressed despite it’s prevalence in the everyday lives of many students at our school. Racism at Berkeley High can be seen manifesting itself in many forms, including our friend groups, small schools, sports teams, and the hate crimes that have been seen on campus over last few years. The protest made by the football team works to break down the assumption that because Berkeley is liberal it is not racist and also created another platform where students were able to voice their opinions.
The decision to kneel in protest for the Black Lives Matter movement was started when Isaiah Mays, Daraja McDonald, and Brandon Bailey held up their fists during the national anthem before their games. In response to the students protest, Head Coach CJ Johnson, asked the team to lower their fists. Johnson said his “only concern was making sure [his] players had an understanding of what they were protesting, what the ramifications of their actions would be, that each player had a voice and any player that didn’t want to take part felt comfortable”. The team then held a discussion in the locker room to decide if and how the protest would take place. Coach Johnson made the locker room a safe space for all of the players to voice their opinions and comfortably shape the protest to reflect their opinions. Ultimately the group decided to kneel together as a team during the national anthem. Throughout this discussion, the team allowed Vice to record their process as well as ask individuals on the team what the movement meant to them.
Overall the team’s response to the video was positive. Coach Johnson, whose main concern was with how the players were portrayed in the filming thought the video was well executed and said that “everyone is pleased with how it turned out”. Johnson also said he felt that the team bonded and that “the new respect the players found for each other was one of the highlights”.
However, some of the discussion that the video prompted has been filled with negativity and hostility, but so far none of it has been from students at Berkeley High. Since the video was posted it has garnered a surprising amount of hateful, ignorant, and racist comments from accounts which thankfully seem to have little affiliation with Berkeley High. Many of the comments are aimed at the black community as well as the Black Lives Matter movement, attacking the hope, passion, and determination that the students in the video so clearly embody.
Though the negative comments on Vice’s video do not inspire hope, love, or unity, the persistence of the football players at Berkeley High do. This can be seen in their continuation to protest racism and stand united. For Ty Delaney, a senior at Berkeley high, this means continuing to take a knee during the national anthem for all the sports that he plays, including lacrosse.
Berkeley High, referred to by Vice as a “hyper-liberal” community, has deep flaws in terms of the manifestation of racism and how it is addressed within our community. Through their continued determination our school football team has stood united to bring this issue to the forefront of not only national discussion, but our local discussion as well.