MSHSAA Member Schools Administrators and Coaches;
The Missouri State High School Activity Association (MSHSAA) does not have a Bylaw regarding demonstrations and the National Anthem for its member schools. Further, the sport of football allows each team to determine if they are on the field or in the locker room for the National Anthem. Local school policy and practices must determine your approach regarding the National Anthem and individual expression.
I hope coaches will use this opportunity to talk with their players; this shouldn’t be about mimicking professional athletes, but a discussion on why individuals feel so strongly on both sides of this issue. This is a learning opportunity for all those involved in education-based athletics and leaders should take this occasion to teach student-athletes and to discuss the subject at hand and make informed decisions accordingly. Respect is a core principle we teach through sports, and is a key characteristic of learning to become a responsible adult.
Further, here are some recommended do’s and don’ts when dealing with students at your schools:
- Whether one agrees with the action or not, sitting or kneeling during the National Anthem is a protected First Amendment right, and MSHSAA cannot disallow the athlete from sitting or kneeling during the Anthem.
- As a coaching staff, take time to discuss this issue with your school administrators before broaching the topic with your team. You may simply want to talk about why some people choose to sit or take a knee during the Anthem. Show that you are open to the conversation, and use it as a teachable moment. Discuss alternate ways to be active within the political/social process.
- Talk to your team about not reacting to what another team does during the Anthem. Choose to approach the contest with class and with an appropriate measure of competitive spirit.
- If you think you might have a player who is considering sitting or kneeling during the National Anthem, you may consider asking the team member(s) ahead of time to let you know. This would be another great opportunity for open dialogue on the topic.
Ultimately, we must all be open to conversations about this issue and other sensitive topics. There are many diverse opinions each of us can learn from.
Kerwin Urhahn, Executive Director