This Student Band That Kneeled to Play the Anthem Understands Racial Injustice Better Than Trump

Oakland teens delivered a musical protest of “racism, police brutality, and the president.”

Just before the start of Monday night’s Oakland Athletics’ game, nearly all of the 140-member Oakland Unified School District Honor Band took a knee while performing the national anthem in protest of “racism, police brutality, and the president.”

OUSD Honor Band Plays the National Anthem at the Oakland A's G…

Before tonight's Oakland A's game, the OUSD Honor Band played the National Anthem. Because of the ongoing national discussion about racial justice, which over the weekend gained steam when President Trump said, with vulgarity, that NFL players should be fired for taking a knee, most members of the band took a knee for the whole song. A's catcher Bruce Maxwell also took a knee. The students said they were protesting racism, police brutality and the President. #iamOUSD #Oakland-Athletics

Posted by Oakland Unified School District on Monday, September 25, 2017

The band’s performance was a salute to the ongoing kneeling protests by professional athletes, which started with San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick last year. On Friday, President Donald Trump responded to the trend during a rally in Alabama: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired’?”

Members of the Oakland school honors band, which is comprised of high school and middle school students, talked to local TV station KTVU about their reasons for taking the knee on Monday night. Ronald Hamlet, a 14-year-old tuba player, meant no disrespect to his home country. “We’re standing up, or in this case kneeling down for, like, racism, xenophobia,” Hamlet told KTVU. And he rejected the hypocritical nature of some of protest’s biggest critics, which to date include Trump; “They’ll like bash NFL players, but not call out neo-Nazis for their violence,” he said.

Violinist Daisy Amador, 14, said the protest was about expressing that “we’re all a community and we support everybody.” 

It isn’t the first time the band has woven a protest into a pre-game performance. Last September, about two-thirds of the band knelt during the Athletics’ national anthem in support of Kaepernick, according to Phil Rydeen, director of visual and performing arts for OUSD.

The school district posted the following statement on Facebook after the game, along with a video of the anthem performance:

“Before tonight’s Oakland A’s game, the OUSD Honor Band played the National Anthem. Because of the ongoing national discussion about racial justice, which over the weekend gained steam when President Trump said, with vulgarity, that NFL players should be fired for taking a knee, most members of the band took a knee for the whole song. A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell also took a knee. The students said they were protesting racism, police brutality and the President. #iamOUSD #Oakland-Athletics

The post was met with a mix of support and outrage on Facebook, with some commenters calling for the band staff to be fired. Others said they were proud of the students and the band directors. Here are some Facebook comments on the post:


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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

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In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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