Auburn football players kneel during national anthem

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) – District 205 responds for the first time after half a dozen Auburn football players take a knee during the national anthem.

In a statement, Auburn head football coach Dan Appino says “the student athletes said they wanted to create more social awareness of racial injustice in America. They made it clear that they did not intend to disrespect our military; rather, they wanted to embrace the freedom of expression and other constitutional rights that our military fought so hard to preserve.”

Across the country, high school football players are following in the footsteps of San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick, an NFL player who made national headlines for kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial oppression in the United States.

In video recorded at the team's game on Friday, September 9, at least six Auburn High School football players can be seen kneeling during the national anthem while other teammates participate in the ceremony. We’re told the gestures at the games by these students were discussed at a private meeting at Monday night’s football practice. The action is sparking outrage on social media with some calling it disrespectful.

Coach Appino’s statement goes on to say “This movement is sweeping the nation as a peaceful form of protest. I am not happy that football is being used as the platform for this protest, but I respect the passion our kids feel about this topic.”

The District says the students’ actions do not violate any Rockford Public School District 205 policy, NIC-10 bylaw, or guideline in the student or athletic handbooks.

A statement from RPS 205 Athletic Director Mat Parker says “Auburn High School coaching staff and student athletes will discuss the team members’ actions and both the coaching staff and students’ thoughts of the national anthem in what we hope will be a meaningful dialogue.”