Team of 8-year-old football players kneel in protest during National Anthem

Inspired by unsigned NFL player Colin Kaepernick, a team of 8-year-old football players knelt in protest of police violence against black people during the National Anthem ahead of a game held Sunday in Belleville, Illinois.

Their demonstration comes in the wake of the Friday acquittal of a Jason Stockley, a white former St. Louis police officer who shot and killed a 24-year-old black driver named Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011. The decision has prompted days of protests against police brutality across the city.

Per Fox 2 News, it was news of this verdict — and the resulting protests — that prompted a discussion about police violence between young members of the Cahokia Quarterback Football Club and Coach Orlando Gooden. 

He tells the local affiliate: “One of the kids asked me if I saw (people) protesting and rioting in St. Louis. I said yes; I said, ‘Do you know why they are doing it?'” 

Gooden says the child responded, “Because black people are getting killed and nobody’s going to jail.”

The coach says he held a team meeting to discuss other cases of police violence across the country and mentioned Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the National Anthem throughout last year’s NFL season – inspiring the young athletes to do the same. 

(Though Kaepernick is currently unsigned, NFL players continue to follow his example. In August, multiple Cleveland Browns players knelt in prayer during the anthem ahead of a game.)

“He’s just an 8-year-old baby and he’s asking me why they are doing it,” Gooden told the Belleville-News Democrat. “I felt it was a teaching opportunity. As a coach and adult, it’s your role to protect those that are weaker and to enlighten them when you can.”

In St. Louis, protests continued into Tuesday, with protestors accusing police officers of using excessive force during the demonstrations. 

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