District bars protests dur­ing an­them

‘Star-Span­gled Ban­ner’ left out of San Pasqual game a week after play­ers were abused

Yuma Sun - - FRONT PAGE - BY BLAKE HER­ZOG @BLAKEHERZOG

The “Star-Span­gled Ban­ner” was not played at the be­gin­ning of Thurs­day night’s foot­ball game at San Pasqual Val­ley High School, one day after the school district said in a memo to par­ents that no po­lit­i­cal protests by stu­dents or staff would be per­mit­ted dur­ing the na­tional an­them at any home or away games.

San Pasqual Val­ley Uni­fied School District Su­per­in­ten­dent Rauna Fox said Fri­day the play­ing of the an­them was called off “in the in­ter­est of stu­dent safety,” She said she could not dis­cuss whether any threats were re­ceived prior to the game.

The let­ter in­struct­ing stu­dents and coaches to stand, re­move all hats or hel­mets and re­main stand­ing un­til the song ends came in re­sponse to a melee after last week’s game, where San Pasqual played Mayer High School on its field in Mayer in Yava­pai County.

At the be­gin­ning of that game, some San Pasqual play­ers and coaches ei­ther took a knee or re­mained seated dur­ing the na­tional an­them, Fox said, which did not go over well with Mayer stu­dents, staff and com­mu­nity mem­bers.

After it was over, “our stu­dents were sub­jected to ver­bal as­saults, other kinds of as­saults, other in­ci­dents in­clud­ing the throw­ing of wa­ter and the use of racial slurs and ges­tures,” Fox said.

District of­fi­cials con­tacted the Mayer school ad­min­is­tra­tor Mon­day, she said, and “he as­sured us that he was deal­ing with his staff and stu­dents and apol­o­gized.” San Pasqual of­fi­cials also in­formed the Ari­zona In­ter­scholas­tic As­so­ci­a­tion they would no longer ac­cept games ver­sus Mayer High on its sched­ule.

Re­gard­ing the new rules on con­duct dur­ing the na­tional an­them, she said, “We be­lieve in the First Amend­ment rights of stu­dents and staff, but stu­dent safety has to be our top pri­or­ity.” The rules are to stay in ef­fect un­til the district board adopts a for­mal pol­icy on the is­sue.

Fox said she had heard one com­ment, from a com­mu­nity mem­ber, after the an­them was omit­ted from Thurs­day’s game.

Thurs­day’s game against Babo­quiv­ari High School of Sells was the last of the San Pasqual War­riors’ foot­ball sea­son, which they won 64-12. Fox said she isn’t sure whether the na­tional an­them is played be­fore the games of any other in­ter­scholas­tic sports the high school par­tic­i­pates in.

This week’s game was held on Thurs­day be­cause San Pasqual Val­ley schools were closed Fri­day in ob­ser­vance of Na­tive American Day. The high school is just west of Yuma in Win­ter­haven, Calif., and has 178 stu­dents, mostly from the Fort Yuma Quechan In­dian Tribe.

Ken­rick Es­calanti’s old­est daugh­ter is a se­nior at San Pasqual, and he was an an­nouncer at Thurs­day’s game. He said he and many other com­mu­nity mem­bers don’t agree with the district bar­ring stu­dents from kneel­ing or stay­ing seated dur­ing the an­them.

“I think it’s send­ing the wrong mes­sage, I think when stu­dents are try­ing to do some­thing that’s right, they’re be­ing pun­ished, es­pe­cially after they were the vic­tims of vi­o­lence and racism,” he said.

He said he and other game staff were “ad­vised” by the school prin­ci­pal to fol­low the new pol­icy on the na­tional an­them.

“I let him know that if these stu­dents can’t protest, there’s a big chance the com­mu­nity is go­ing to protest, and I’m let­ting you nei­ther of whom know I’m go­ing to be one of are tribal mem­bers. them,” Es­calanti said. He He said he felt it was doesn’t know whether his “way pre­ma­ture” to can­cel com­ment led to what was the Star-Span­gled Ban­ner” ap­par­ently a last-minute to pro­tect the safety of stu­dents de­ci­sion. and staff.

He said many com­ments Kneel­ing or sit­ting dur­ing he’s seen on sto­ries about the U.S. na­tional an­them the Thurs­day night game at foot­ball games to blamed the Na­tive American com­mu­nity for not protest racial in­equal­ity play­ing the an­them. and in­jus­tice was pop­u­lar­ized

“The fact is this was a after for­mer NFL quar­ter­back school-based de­ci­sion. The Colin Kaeper­nick lead­er­ship at the school be­gan do­ing it dur­ing last made the de­ci­sion not to year’s pre­sea­son. The con­tro­versy play the an­them. And what hangs over this I mean by that, is this was sea­son’s games, fol­low­ing a call by the prin­ci­pal, on a anti-protest re­marks by di­rec­tive from the su­per­in­ten­dent,” Pres­i­dent Trump.

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