- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 13, 2016

A youth football team was pelted with racial epithets during a game near Pittsburgh over the weekend after several of its athletes took a knee during the national anthem, their coach claims.

Police were reportedly deployed to maintain order during Saturday’s match-up in Bethel Park, Pa. after the 12- and 13-year-old athletes on a mostly black visiting team were subjected to racial slurs for participating in the pre-game protest in a predominately white suburb, Woodland Hills Wolverines head coach Marcus Burkley Sr.told WXPI-TV.

“It seemed like everything started once the national anthem started. Two or three of my players took a knee,” he told the television station. “Once they took a knee, you see cameras and people taking pictures. And out of nowhere you hear, ‘If the little N-word want to take a knee, they shouldn’t be able to play.”

The jeers originated in the stands but quickly spread onto the football field, according to Mr. Burkley.

“Players told me, they say, ‘Coach, they’re calling us the N-word,’” the coach recalled.

Local police officers were eventually called in to keep the peace, Mr. Burkleytold PennLive, and the Wolverines ultimately won the game.

According to the coach, however, the victory occurred in spite of discrimination that included more than just racial slurs: the game’s refs penalized the Wolverines more than 200 yards often without explanation, and several of the athletes were reportedly denied service at a nearby concessional stand, he said.

On Facebook, the coach said his team had gotten “a taste of what this cold society can sometimes dish out.”

“It was sad and scary that kids were subjected to this. … I didn’t sleep that night,” he told PennLive.

Mr. Burkley said he spoke with his team previously about protesting on the field after some his players took a knee when the the national anthem was played at an earlier game – a form of demonstration that become frequent after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the anthem.

“The ones who took a knee did so because they feel African Americans are not being treated equally,” the coach told PennLive.

Specifically, members of the Wolverines said they wanted to speak out about the death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was shot and killed on a playground in Nov. 2014 when law enforcement mistook his pellet gun for a deadly weapon.

“Tamir Rice was a 12 year old and we’re still 12 year olds,” one of the players told their coach, Mr. Burkley recalled.

“I didn’t take a knee with them, but I told them ‘I’ll back you 100 percent if we receive any backlash,’ and I knew we would,” he told PennLive.

Neither local police nor the Bethel Park Junior Football League could be reached for comment Tuesday evening, PennLive reported. The league’s president, Paul Currie, told WXPI earlier this week that he does not condone the behavior alleged by Woodland Hills and would be investigating the incident.

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