Will death threats stop Texas youth football team’s protest?

Photo credit: Facebook - @rahrah.barber
Photo credit: Facebook – @rahrah.barber

Members of the Beaumont Bulls youth football team in Beaumont, Texas, are reportedly receiving death threats after peacefully protesting the national anthem.

April Parkerson, the mother of 11-year-old running back Jaelun Parkerson, described this summer as a turning point in her son’s awareness of race and politics. As for many people across the country, online videos of the police shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were the last straw.

“[Jaelun] asked me what we could do about it,” Parkerson said to ABC News. “So when news of Kaepernick’s protest broke, a lightbulb went off. Then when Brandon Marshall joined in, he said, ‘OK, we’re going to do this.'”

Rah Rah Barber, the team’s coach, acknowledged Kaepernick as an influence as well and said he became motivated to read up on the history of the national anthem. He added that one of his players approached him with a photo of the protests of the anthem and told him that the team wanted to join it.

“I said to the team, ‘Do you know what this means?'” Barber said. “And they said that they did. So I went to their parents for their approval.”

Parkerson, who is White and married to a Black man, said she and her son admire Kaepernick for the bravery he showed in taking a stand. She said her son, who is biracial like Kaepernick, felt inspired by him.

“Colin didn’t have to take this subject on,” she said. “But he decided to use the platform he had to speak up for people who have no voice.”

The attention surrounding the team’s protest started last Saturday when Barber, along with his coaching staff and team, kneeled and placed their hands on each other’s shoulders in silence before the playing of the national anthem. Permission from the youth football league’s board of directors, and expressions of support from many people, haven’t stopped some from sending death threats to the team.

Barber concurred with Parkerson, saying he never imagined the response to the team’s actions would “get to this point.” He said the threats have shown “how far behind we are as a society.”

“I ignore it,” said Barber, who involves himself in youth football to keep kids off the streets. “It’s the kids I worry about. If they ever felt threatened, I would advise their parents to reach out to authorities.”

Calls to Beaumont Police Department and the FBI to ask whether the threats against Bulls players and coaches are under investigation were not immediately returned.

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