Threats after Cheerleader Anthem Protest Force School to Restrict Game Attendance to Parents

TALLADEGA, AL - MAY 05: A giant American Flag waves above the track during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 5, 2013 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A high school football team in Pennsylvania plays a homecoming game scheduled for Friday night on Friday afternoon before a restricted crowd after a national anthem protest created an uproar.

Twelve of the 15 of Cornell High School’s cheerleaders knelt for the national anthem before a September 30th game. The presence of a Veterans of Foreign Wars color guard during the stunt sparked outrage in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania. Some charged the superintendent of schools with inviting the VFW group only to embarrass them. He denies this but admits he did hear of the planned protest before it occurred.

“To see them do that and disgrace Coraopolis and their school, it made me sick,” World War II veteran Danny Larocco, a part of the VFW color guard two weeks ago, told WPXI’s Channel 11 News in Pittsburgh.

“Symbolic speech is protected speech,” school superintendent Aaron Thomas insisted. He told the local TV station, “If anything, it created a healthy discussion within the walls of our building.”

As a result of the ensuing controversy, which included threats of violence and 500 to 600 messages left on the district’s voice mail, the superintendent made Friday night’s homecoming game a Friday afternoon affair. Beyond this, he restricts attendance at the matchup with Shenango High School to the parents of players.

The protest comes in the wake of Colin Kaepernick and a handful of other NFL players refusing to rise during “The Star Spangled Banner.” Kaepernick cites racism and police brutality as reasons for his protest. Since the San Francisco 49ers quarterback launched his protest during the preseason, high school athletes, a women’s professional soccer player, and others around the country have mimicked his kneeling gesture during the national anthem.

Cornell High’s protesting cheerleaders see much to protest and little to cheer this season. After reviving their dormant football program for this season, the Cornell Raiders accumulated six losses in six games. The team averages two points a game to the opposition’s 41.