Officials with a south Texas youth football team were accused of threatening players and parents after their season was shuttered in the aftermath of a protest by the team in early September 2016.
The Beaumont Bulls’ 11- and 12-year-old senior team attracted national attention when players and coaches on the all-black squad took a knee during the playing of the U.S. national anthem before their 10 September game. The coaching staff said at the time that the demonstration (modeled after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protests against police brutality) was supported by their players.
The team released a statement two days after the game explaining the rationale behind the protest, while also saying that it generated a backlash:
The Beaumont Bulls organization is about uplifting and educating young boys and men of all ethnicities and cultures through sports and public service. We are not anti-military. We are not anti-law enforcement. Our players made the choice to kneel and not sit during the National Anthem in a silent and peaceful manner and we supported them then and now. However, their choice to express themselves has now made them a target for hateful comments and threats to their lives as well as those working with the team by those in our community and surrounding areas. These types of responses are not how we teach them to react when they don’t agree with something. We are truly disheartened by some of the responses, but we know that they are not representative of the entire Golden Triangle. It is our hope and desire to cultivate young men that will be leaders in our communities that will make a difference in this world and though their stance was not seen by all as a sign of progress, we believe that it was and we will continue to support them.
The Bay Area Football League, which the Bulls are a part of, released a separate statement saying they approved the demonstration prior to the contest:
On behalf of the Bay Area Football League (BAFL), we would like to take a moment to clarify BAFL’s position in regards to the Beaumont Bulls’ decision to kneel during the National Anthem prior the Senior Division game on 09/10/16. BAFL Officials were notified by the Bulls organization prior to the protest, and we fully supported the player‘s request to express themselves in the manner they felt justified. Their actions are clearly not in violation of any regulation, rules or policies within the Bay Area Football League. There has been no need for BAFL officials to intervene in the Beaumont Bulls’ decision, and as such, BAFL has not had the need to meet with parents, players or the Beaumont Bulls Organization Board at any time. There are scenarios occurring in society that until this point in time, we have not had to address.
On 15 September 2016, team president Seterria Anderson released a third statement saying that a board meeting dealing with the threats against the players “got out of hand,” and that the senior team would continue to kneel during the anthem.
Snopes.com contacted Anderson seeking comment on the events of this season, but she had not responded as of publication time. However, unidentified parents and coaches from the team said that the Bulls were threatened with suspension or removal if they continued to demonstrate.
One parent said Bulls officials told then-head coach Rah-Rah Barber they did not understand the significance of the protests:
When trying to reason with our executive board, it was literally like having to explain racism to a Trump supporter. We were laughed at, told that our boys didn’t know racism and couldn’t understand why they were even protesting. Our kids are fully aware — especially after being targeted by so much hate this past week.
Barber was reportedly suspended following the meeting, though team officials attributed the move to the “improper removal” of a coach and player from the squad, rather than a protest. We contacted Barber seeking comment on the issue, but he has not responded.
The team subsequently ended their season after several players quit and decided to join another local team, the Beaumont Longhorns. An online petition calls for Barber and his coaching staff to be reinstated and for the senior team to be allowed to finish their season.
Originally published: 28 October 2016