Waggener High School football players link arms during national - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Waggener High School football players link arms during national anthem, kneel during game

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - A NFL quarterback is getting push back and praise for kneeling during the national anthem. On Friday, local high school football players tried to send their own message on the field. 

Before Waggener High School's game against Atherton High School, the Wildcats players and coaches linked arms. 

"These are truly brothers," said Waggener High School Coach Jordan Johnson. "And they use football as just an avenue to express themselves with it." 

Those on the field also took a knee during the team's first possession. We're told the team decided to do this after one Waggenger player took a knee during the national anthem earlier this month. 

School officials say the students wanted to bring awareness to issues like race and poverty. They sat down with the student afterward to start a discussion. 

"He realized that the timing of his protest was received disrespectful by several groups," said Waggener High School Principal Sarah Hitchings.  

Hitchings says the student, team and school decided to move forward in a different way. 

When players knelt at the start of the game, they got a penalty, which one student pointed out was symbolic. 

"He brought up the fact that this is life for us," Johnson said. "We get pushed back, and we start at a different starting point than some people for whatever reason. It may be, but their goal is still to get to that finish line, that end zone." 

School officials say they've gotten national media attention and mixed feedback for what's happened at the games. 

But both the coach and principal says they're proud and hope the kids now take things a step further through education and activism.

"How are we going to be change agents and create a better society?" Hitchings asked. 

Johnson says the team doesn't plan to take a knee at future games because players are now focused on community projects. 

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