At least one high school baseball team in Iowa opened its season on Monday by taking a knee during the national anthem in a show of support of Black Lives Matter.
The Roosevelt Roughriders, in their home white uniforms, stepped out of their third-base dugout and dropped to a knee and linked arms as “The Star-Spangled Banner” played at Principal Park in Des Moines, home of the Triple-A Iowa Cubs.
“We’re just trying to show our appreciation, and it’s about social justice,” Roosevelt senior outfielder Jayden Singleton told the station.
“It shows how we are together as a team and have a strong core.”
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the 2016 NFL season to protest systemic racism and police brutality. Kaepnernick has not been signed by any team since he left the 49ers after that season.
His kneeling drew the ire of President Donald Trump who urged owners to cut players who engage in this silent protest.
But since the start of worldwide protests in the wake of the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, activists, lawmakers and even police officers have dropped to a knee.
“No disrespect to the flag. It’s simply to bring attention to the issues at hand, and I think we did the right thing,” Roosevelt senior infielder Alex Pendergast told the station.
“If we had some standing and some kneeling, it’s not as big of a deal. But to show that our whole team came together and kneeled, I think it makes a very big impact.”
The players in Des Moines had the backing of school administrators.
“It made me feel good because our kids are in it together,” activities manager Tracy Johnson told WHO. “We want those kids to be able to express themselves, and it was neat for us to see all of our kids do that.”
Players on the other team, the Ankeny Centennial Jaguars, did not kneel for the anthem, WHO reported.
A spokesman for the Iowa High School Athletic Association, which oversees boys sports, told NBC News there are no rules against kneeling for the anthem. But the association declined to comment on Roosevelt’s anthem protest.
Monday was opening for high school baseball and softball season in Iowa, delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Iowa’s high school games could mark the first competitive, sanctioned team sports in the U.S. since the coronavirus pandemic brought an abrupt end to athletic action three months ago.
Iowa is the only state that plays its high school baseball and softball in the summer, with the season going well after graduation and deep into July.
So even during the darker days of the pandemic in March and April, plans to have 2020 prep baseball and softball seasons in Iowa were never taken off the table.
There were 284 high school baseball teams in action on Monday and Roosevelt appeared to be the only squad to take a knee, the IHSAA spokesman said Tuesday.
A rep for the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, the governing body of girls prep sports in Iowa, said Tuesday he’d not heard of any kneeling protests at softball games on Monday.