For a whole lot of drama, it was an uneventful minute.
Four Lansing Catholic football players knelt Friday night during the national anthem before their homecoming game against Ionia.
Without incident, junior Kabbash Richards and seniors Roje Williams, Michael Lynn III and Matthew Abdullah each took a knee next to each other on the goal line as the rest of their teammates stood.
The four players began the game on the bench, a punishment they knew was coming as of Friday afternoon after being benched during Thursday’s practice. Abdullah, Richards and Williams played in the first quarter and Lynn, normally the team’s quarterback, entered the game for the first time with about 8 minutes left until halftime.
Moments before the anthem, the prayer read over the loud speaker reflected a difficult week at Lansing Catholic.
Here’s an excerpt: “We need your grace to overcome all division and all anger, all bigotry and all hatred. The absence of physical violence does not mean the automatic presence of peace. Authentic peace is a gift from you that must be cultivated in human hearts.”
The flap began when the school reversed course after originally intending to allow its players to come up with a plan that both showed unity and respected each student’s freedom to express themselves. That plan changed before a parents’ meeting on Wednesday night.
Center from left, Lansing Catholic's Kabbash Richards, Roje Williams, Michael Lynn III and Matthew Abdullah, kneel while the rest of the team stands during the national anthem before the start of the Cougars' game against Ionia on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, at Cougar Stadium in Lansing. The four players did not start in the game. (Photo: Nick King/Lansing State Journal)
Abdullah’s mother, Rovonya Velasquez, said Friday’s meetings between players, their families and the school went better.
“The AD (Brian Wolcott) and (principal) Mr. (Doug) Moore were very transparent,” she said. “…They asked if there were any other solutions and offered some suggestions that you thought, ‘Hmm, that wouldn’t be a bad idea. ... Each family will have a decision to make.”
Lansing Catholic president Tom Maloney, who didn’t return messages left for him from the Lansing State Journal Thursday or during the day Friday, kept it positive Friday night.
“It was a great day. It was their spirit day,” he said. “All the football players were into it. Many people commented, ‘That’s the most pep we’ve seen in many years.’ So the kids did a great job. And everyone’s doing a great job tonight. Tonight’s about this football game. We’re excited about that.”
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