When some members of a Detroit high school football team decided to take a knee during the national anthem, it ignited racially fueled backlash from parents.
On November 23, the predominantly black Denby High School football team, went head-to-head against Almont High School, a majority white school, to compete for the division semifinal title. While Almont defeated Denby with a score of 36-8, the game was called early because of excessive personal fouls, reported The Detroit Free Press.
Before the game began, several Denby football players reportedly took a knee during the national anthem, which riled up fans of the opposing team.
“Our cameraman is white and was filming near some Almont fans,” Deon Godfrey, Denby football coach, told the Detroit Free Press. “During the national anthem, he overheard them saying: ‘Look at these n-words taking a knee and they don’t even know why they’re doing it,’ and kept going.”
Godfrey added that other members of Denby's staff, including white coaches, were subjected to derogatory slurs from the bleachers throughout the game.
As the game ended and Godfrey’s team left the field, one of the Denby players reportedly pushed an Almont band member, causing Almont parents and fans to verbally assault the opposing team. In response, Denby football players then reportedly threw helmets and shoes toward the stands, with some climbing the fence between the field and bleachers.
“Grown men and women started spitting on our kids as they walked up the ramp,” Godfrey recalled. “They were throwing food, cups and whatever.”
One of Denby High School’s counselors, who was present at the game, shared a detailed post about the ordeal on Facebook, stating: “When leaving the field our kids were spit on! Pelted with garbage and one of our young men was punched in the face by an Almont parent! After we were able to get our kids in a safe area they locked us all in a caged area in the corner of the field, when we just wanted to get the kids safely on our bus! Almont parents were spitting on our kids!”
William Kalmar, superintendent of Almont Community Schools, published a statement in response to the chaotic incident at the semifinal game.
“We are investigating fully allegations that members of the Almont Raiders Marching Band taunted players from Denby High School while both groups attempted to exit the stadium after the game was called by officials,” the statement read. “At this time, we have no evidence of such behavior by members of our marching band, dance team, cheerleaders or student body. We are cooperating with the authorities in attempting to identify those spectators who may have aggravated the confrontation by taunting Denby players. There is no circumstance in which it is appropriate for an adult spectator to interject themselves into a high school event.”