A youth football team went viral when they decided to kneel during the national anthem in protest. Their coach says the children came up with the idea on their own. All of the members of the Cahokia Quarterback Club in Cahokia, Illinois, took part in the Colin Kaepernick-style protest on September 17. Their coach, Orlando Gooden, told Fox St. Louis, “One of the kids asked me if I saw [people] protesting and rioting in St. Louis. I said yes, I said, ‘Do you know why they are doing it?’ Gooden says a young player told him, “Because black people are getting killed and nobody’s going to jail.” The coach then said, “I felt like it was a good teaching moment for me to circle the team and have a meeting.”
The town of Cahokia is in Illinois and considered part of the St. Louis metropolitan, located just south of downtown, area with a population of just over 15,000.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Gooden Says ‘I’m Perfectly Fine & I’m Covered Under the 1st Amendment’
As long as I have the support of my parents and team, I’m perfectly fine, and I’m covered under the First Amendment to peacefully protest and assemble.
While a friend of Gooden’s, fellow youth football coach, Darren Goodwin, told the News Democrat in an interview, “People don’t know that the kneeling is a sign of respect for those you are mourning, and I think they need to be made aware of what it means. Everybody has the same First Amendment fright to free speech and protest. The comments directed toward the coaches and the kids isn’t fair, I don’t think. Then again, we don’t always deal with fairness.”
2. Gooden Works in Children’s Healthcare
On his Facebook page, Gooden says that he worked for St. Anthony’s Medical Center and Don Bosco Children’s Center as a Treatment Specialist. Speaking to the News Democrat, Gooden said that he did not want to involve his work in the protest. The newspaper says that Godden graduated from Cahokia High School in 2001 where he played as a running back in a 10-1.
Gooden has a bachelor’s degree in recreation and sports management from Indiana State University, according to the News Democrat. According to his Facebook page, Gooden also graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia where he played college ball.
3. The Team Strives to Teach Attributes Such as ‘Leadership’ & ‘Self-Confidence’
In a profile for the Cahokia Quarterback Club is says the group is “non-profit” and that it strives to provide a “safe organized program” for kids. The attributes the team tries to instill in players are, “Competition, cooperation, discipline, leadership, self-confidence, sportsmanship and teamwork.”
4. Since Uploading the Video, Gooden’s Wife Has Been Subjected to Vile Racist Abuse on Her Facebook Page
Since uploading the video, Gooden’s wife, Latia Cole-Godden, has been subjected to vile racist abuse on her Facebook page. One person, Matt Suarez, wrote that Cole-Godden should “Go the f*** back to Africa if you hate this country.” While another, Dale Charles, said that Cole-Godden should be made “swim to Africa.”
Gooden and his wife have two sons together. Cole-Gooden is a native of East Saint Louis.
The News Democrat says that “some suggested” the team should be thrown out of their league. In his News Democrat interview, Gooden said, “I know some of the people and speak as if I told the kids to turn around and that. I didn’t. They brought up the subject and led the discussion. I feel like once a child shows interest in a topic, you have to talk to them and teach them what you can.”
Darren Goodwin also told the News Democrat about the notion that Gooden put his players up to the protest, “That’s not what Orlando is all about. He would not make the kids do something didn’t want to do or were not comfortable doing.”
5. Rapper T.I. Is Supporting the Kids
Rapper T.I. is one of those who has come out in support of the Cahokia protest. He told TMZ that it’s important to people to use their platforms to protest saying, “I think parents are just supposed to support the passion of the child.” While T.I. also said that he disagreed that politics should be left out of sports.
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