NFL players support protesting Texas youth team

Darin Gantt
ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

Much like Colin Kaepernick, the Beaumont Bulls paid a price for their protest.

But unlike the unemployed-for-no-valid-reason quarterback, the Bulls are getting some NFL backing and are back on the field.

According to Tim McManus of ESPN.com, a group of NFL players donated $20,000 to help the Texas youth team, after their season was canceled last year after taking a knee during the national anthem.

Last September, the Beaumont Bulls 11-12-year-old team took a knee. The Bay Area Football League promptly suspended coach Rah Rah Barber. This year they’re back as the Southeast Texas Oilers, as members of a different organization.

Malcolm Jenkins and Torrey Smith of the Eagles; Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty; and free-agent wide receiver Anquan Boldin were among the players who wrote the checks to support their start-up. Jenkins and Boldin heard about the situation during a panel discussion in Houston  during Super Bowl week set up by Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (That’s Ross as in Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.)

“We wanted to make sure that we sent those kids the message that it’s OK to stand up for what you believe in,” Jenkins said. “We didn’t want them to walk away from the season feeling punished for trying to do the right thing. We wanted to make sure that was rewarded and acknowledged and encouraged, so that was our main motivation for helping.”

The donation covered the cost of equipment needed for the team to take the field this fall.

Oilers vice president April Parkerson said the movement began with her son Jaelun, who was troubled by the shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota by a police officer. And following the example set by Kaepernick, the team decided to take a knee as he did.

“We thought about it long and hard because we are a military family,” April Parkerson said. “We had the support of friends and family and we all believe in doing the right thing and we all took a knee together. It just took off from there.”

The team told the Bay Area Football League about the planned protest before a Sept. 10 game, but opinions changed quickly against them, including death threats coming in by social media.

Jenkins was among the players to lodge similar protests last year, raising a fist during the anthem for all but one game.

“As role models, when you step out there and you demonstrate something, especially something as big as what happened last year with the protests in the NFL. . . . I think it’s definitely the responsibility of those out in front to think about the impact that it has on everyone behind them,” Jenkins said. “Because some of these kids and coaches and youth teams don’t have the same protections and securities that we have. And so I think it’s definitely a responsibility to at least thoroughly explain why you demonstrated, why you’re doing what you’re doing, so that people understand the risks and consequences, and that you also encourage them and support them.”

Now if they can just find a team willing to support the guy who started the movement.

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