Take A Knee? TEAM Westport Asks Teens Their Take

Last year, TEAM Westport‘s annual teen diversity essay contest tackled a hot topic: white privilege. Submissions were insightful and strong. Reaction was strong too, though not nearly as intelligent. A national controversy ensued.

TEAM Westport was not cowed. The town’s multicultural committee has just announced this year’s 5th annual contest. The topic is once again in the news.

And the idea once again is to make local teenagers — and everyone else reading their essays — think.

The prompt says:

Recently, several professional athletes have “taken a knee” during the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” to bring attention to — and to protest — ongoing bias and discriminatory practices in American society in general, and by law enforcement officers in particular.

In reaction, some people have called these athletes “unpatriotic.”  In 1,000 words or fewer, describe your understanding of what it means to be a patriot, what kinds of behavior you think would be unpatriotic, and what forms of protest against discriminatory laws, customs, or patterns of behavior you would consider legitimate.

This is not your typical essay contest.

But — as the nation continues to be grapple with issues relating to race, ethnicity, religion and identity, along with questions about what America is and what it stands for — it is exactly the kind of essay contest we need.

The contest — co-sponsored with the Westport Library — is open to students in grades 9 through 12 who attend Staples High School or another school in Westport, or who live in Westport and attend school elsewhere.

Applications are available here. The deadline is February 27. Winners will be announced at a ceremony at the library on April 2. Based on the volume and caliber of entries received, judges may award up to 3 prizes. First prize is $1,000; 2nd prize is $750, 3rd is $500.

(Individuals or organizations who would like to help sponsor the contest can click here or email info@teamwestport.org. Contributions are deductible to the extent permitted by law.)

22 responses to “Take A Knee? TEAM Westport Asks Teens Their Take

  1. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    IMO, it has nothing to do with my position on the issue, but I view this strictly as unacceptable behavior in a job environment For example, when CK was active with the 49er’s, he was paid millions for being a winning quarterback , showing up for work and in his personal conduct. He is a celebrity in his own right and had he chosen to do so, he could have exercised many, many forums outside of the stadium to express himself. Had he done so, there was an excellent chance that he’d still be under contract in the NFL. IMFO, he is his own worst enemy..He has disappointed those who might have supported him and marginalized his effectiveness as a “cause celebre”.

    • Just a question, Eric: What’s your opinion on Tim Tebow taking a knee to express his faith?

      • Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

        Dan, I would take the same position on Tebow for the same reason. There is a time and a place for everything. The average citizen would never get away with this on the job. Furthermore the bakery in Colorado deserves to be boycotted and the Kentucky town clerk Kim Davis should have been immediately fired rather than being allowed to use her office as a venue for her cruelty to tax-paying citizens. But as Leona liked to say: “Rules are for the “little people.” “

      • Tim Tebow did not take a knee during the National Anthem to express his faith, and that (taking a knee during the National Anthem) is the matter under discussion. Not sure what your point is with that comment Dan, as it appears to be what we call a “red herring”

          • Hi Dan,
            Tim Tebow took a knee, but it wasn’t in protest and it wasn’t during the National Anthem as Jack stated…. and as the article you linked seems to skate around.
            Personally, I don’t think it’s a good idea to protest on company time..

          • This article has nothing to do with the essay topic.

        • Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

          As I interpreted it, Dan was drawing an analogy between CK and TT who seem to have the commonality of playing at football games while proseletizing (is my spelling correct?) I’m not trying to stifle self-expression I just don’t think the workplace is the right place for it unless you’re an author or a pundit. Neither CK or TT would face much criticism if they demonstrated outside the stadium gate or even better, via social media. They can also write to the editorial director of the NYT. And I’m sure their creative minds can think up additional opportunities for self-expression that haven’t occurred to wet blankets like me. Football fans matter and true Christian soldiers have never marched as to war while trying to play football. They just don’t mix very well IMHO.

      • Michael Treadwell

        To: Mr. Woog: Tim Tebow has absolutely nothing to do with the players who kneeled during the national anthem. First of all, Tebow kneeled after a touchdown was scored, not during the national anthem. He was thankful for what happened on the field during the game, such as a touchdown that was scored for his team. He was kneeling as an expression of his own personal faith. It had absolutely nothing to do with any kind of a social protest, and the public more than likely thought the same. There was no controversy with Tebow.

        The players kneeling this past season during the national anthem was a pre-planned show of arrogant and provocative disrespect of our flag and country. They should have been suspended without pay the first time. The second time they kneeled they should have been suspended without pay for the rest of the season. If they continued to kneel the following season they should be permanently cut from the team roster.

        What was even worse was the cowardice of the team owners who did nothing about it. Why were the players not disciplined for their actions? The owners knew that if they suspended the players they might start losing games. If they lost enough games they would be out of the playoffs. If that happened the owners would lose money. As far as the owners were concerned it was all about money. Talented players suspended increased the chances of losing games and money.

        In addition since most of the players who kneeled were African-Americans the owners could very well have been worried about being called a racist and a bigot by their players. They chose to avoid that by taking no disciplinary action which demonstrated cowardice on their part.

        The commissioner of the NFL with his inflated salary also was a disgraceful coward who did absolutely nothing. He should be removed as soon as possible for the sake of the game.

        Football fans are simply not going to continue to tolerate this kind of disrespect. Boycott the games and decrease the revenue of the owners. That is my protest.

        • While off topic, how do you feel about Tom Brady’s “disciplinary action”, or lack there of?

  2. An important and topical question posed by Team Westport! I look forward to reading the always thoughtful answers from our young people in a future 06880 post.

  3. These Team Westport essays are a wonderful way to encourage our youth to think, discuss, research and express themselves on important issues such as this one. I only wish that the essay would have asked students to consider whether it is appropriate to engage in social protests such as this one while at work. I would be fired if I took a few minutes before every client meeting to express my opposition to/support for ________________ (fill in the blank with a social issue) in our country. While I am pleased that students have been asked to consider “what kinds of behavior” and “what forms of protest” are legitimate, etc., the issue of “where the protest takes place” should have been specifically included in the writing prompt.

    • Michael Treadwell

      Excellent point by Elaine Marino. Many of us would be fired for engaging in some kind of a social protest WHILE AT WORK. The crucial point is that the players are working while they are kneeling during the national anthem. The same players who kneel can become involved in any social protest of their choice, on their own time, not at work. What they are doing is inappropriate to say the least, and disrespectful to the American flag, and to the men and women who have died for us during wars.

  4. Arline Gertzoff

    This is an excellent thought provoking topic that might get a tweet from??

  5. Plenty of paying fans ignore the request to remove hats during anthems.
    Is this a social /political protest, unpatriotic, bad manners, or no big deal?

  6. Richard Fogel

    thank goodness as of today we can express ourselves as we want. Watch out for this administration trying to become more autocratic

  7. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    Whatever happened to going to a football game just to watch football? Whatever happened to just playing football and focusing on what you’re there to do?