Amid both supportive and critical reactions to quarterback Colin Kaepernick's protest of the national anthem, a high school team in Lapeer, Michigan, decided to salute the flag and sing the anthem of their own accord after they were told the song would not be played at their freshman football game on Aug. 31.
The host school for the event, Carman-Ainsworth High School in Flint Township, planned to play the anthem before the junior varsity football game later in the evening. According to Community Schools Superintendent Eddie L. Kindle, this is a very common practice in Michigan, and does not stand for any sort of protest. Instead, it appears to be about efficiency.
"Like most schools in the state of Michigan, we choose to play the national anthem prior to the highest level of competition," Kindle said to MLive.
The freshman players of team Lapeer Lightning, however, did not accept this and took it upon themselves to engage in the singing of it on their own.
Shad Spilski, athletic director for the team, was not in attendance for the game but said he was contacted by multiple parents and other officials who expressed pride in the team.
"We're just super proud of our guys to overcome that situation and take it upon themselves to sing the national anthem. We couldn't be prouder," Spilski said.
Head coach Bryan Sahr said the team thought there might be a problem with the sound system, notes the Statesman. The freshmen were lined up for the anthem, but when the music did not play, another coach, Larry Perry, told the team they'd sing, instead.
"It's an incredible feeling. I've been with most of these players for three years now. They're just an awesome group of kids. It makes me incredibly emotional and I don't usually get emotional," Sahr said.
According to Spilski and Sahr, the student body is "always very vocal" during the anthem so they were not surprised by the freshman team's actions.
Chell Byrnes, a parent who was in the stands, photographed the incident and shared it to her Facebook page:
Amazing class demonstrated by Lapeer Lightning Freshmen football team!!! After we were told per the Carman Ainsworth announcer they won't be playing the pregame national anthem our team stood proud, saluted the flag and sung it themselves, our crowd stood with them for every note! Very proud to be a Lightning Mom tonight!!