Yuma Sun

District bars protests during anthem

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


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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