Niskayuna coach makes sure players understand why they're kneeling

September 29, 2017 05:44 PM

The NFL kneeling protests that have swept the nation have now reached the fields here in the Capital Region. Some members of the Niskayuna High School football team kneeled during the national anthem Thursday night. The rest of the team locked arms.

Coach Brian Grastorf says he was mildly surprised when he found out some of his players were thinking about kneeling, but he never discouraged them from doing so. Instead, Grastorf did his best to educate his players on the origin of the protests they were seeing on TV from NFL players and what, if any, negative feedback his guys might incur.

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During a team meeting on Wednesday, the players agreed to link arms while standing -- knowing some players may drop to a knee.

One cheerleader also knelt.

Grastorf says his players chose this form of peaceful protest because of what they feel is racial injustice in our country.

"We're going to talk about it today and we're going to continue to talk about it because that's what we're here for. To help them become better football players, but also to become better young men," the coach said.

Grastorf says he also gave his team some other ideas for affecting positive change in their community.

"You can go down to the Boys and Girls Club and read to kids or you can volunteer on weekends," he suggested. "And they are receptive to that and I hope they do follow through doing that because there is more to it than just kneeling if you want to make a difference."

Grastorf is a first-year head coach at his alma mater who has made it very clear to his players that they have his full support if they remain strong in their convictions.

Statement from Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr.
In light of the events at Thursday evening’s football game and some of the commentary that followed, Niskayuna Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr., is issuing the following statement in support of all Niskayuna students:

The longstanding values of the Niskayuna Central School District include civility, respect, community, open dialogue and, above all, supporting our students and their education. At Thursday evening’s football game, some of our student-athletes chose to kneel during the National Anthem as the rest of the football team locked arms. As a school community, we support all of our students and their right to express themselves in a peaceful and civil manner. We respect that there are diverse perspectives in our nation, community, and student body on the issues that have been debated across the country in recent days. It must be clear to all that the students who chose to kneel broke no school rule and will not be penalized in any way. Further, we reject intolerance and incivility in all instances – and even more so when it is directed toward our students, as has happened in the hours after the game. We cannot control the content or tone of the national conversation, but how that takes place in Niskayuna is up to all of us.

As an educational institution, it is our responsibility to provide a venue for students to learn about, debate, and understand current events. We are proud of them when they express their views in a peaceful manner. High School Principal John Rickert and Football Coach Brian Grastorf talked to the team in the days leading up to the game and encouraged them to think through their beliefs before acting one way or another. Mr. Rickert and Mr. Grastorf have our support for how they handled this situation. The unity the team displayed on Thursday evening serves as an example for us all.

Niskayuna students demonstrate compassion, civic responsibility and respect daily. We will continue to encourage a thoughtful exchange of diverse viewpoints in our school community.


WNYT Staff

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