Peaceful Protest Places South Under Spotlight

By: Jackson Naugle

On Sept. 26, 2017, members of the South Eugene men’s and women’s soccer teams took a knee. As the national anthem played prior to their match at Sheldon High School, numerous players found themselves flowing against the grain: no hands on heart, no caps removed, and, most importantly, no standing up. This action is a part of the peaceful protest against the social injustice and discrimination our nation is experiencing, but there was nothing “peaceful” about it.

Almost immediately following the national anthem’s playing preceding the 8 p.m. women’s varsity game, numerous Sheldon students posted rage-induced comments on Snapchat, quickly leading to a nightlong debate concerning the issue. The bulk of the battle took place on Twitter, where some conservative-minded individuals were venting about the “disrespect” and “ignorance” that South was showing. The comments were quickly answered by a combination of South Eugene students and alumni, and in a matter of hours, things got out of hand.

A few uncalled for comments were made about the women’s team, which were quickly thwarted by a barrage of rebuttals from South students. The next day, administration forced some of these tweets to be erased, but the arguments did not cease. Punches continued to be traded throughout the following school day, and a few of the tweets picked up an absurd amount of likes and attention.

“We aren’t disrespecting the people who fought for our country, we are very grateful for them. . . We are protesting social injustice in the U.S.,” Will Graves, a senior at South tweeted.

This effort garnered massive interest, collecting nearly 200 likes in a day. Graves is not a player for either team, but still decided to take action and defend his peers.

“I just felt the need to step up and express my opinion,” Graves said.

While some dealt with the issue in a civil manner, others felt the need to make personal attacks and poke fun at the opposing side. Those involved in the debate faced countless “roasts” throughout the 24-hour period, which took the issue to an unnecessary level.

All of this chaos occurred because South stood up, or rather “kneeled down,” for what they believed in. Whether this behavior was “disgusting” or not, the players had the right to kneel during the anthem, and the opposition had the right to appropriately respond. Both sides were fairly sensible until things started getting personal, which was far from the intention of the players.

“We were just trying to exercise our right to peacefully protest,” senior goalkeeper Isabella Odekoven said. “We didn’t intend to create a social media storm whatsoever.”

Amongst the vast turmoil, South Eugene came away with a sweep on Tuesday, the boys winning 4-2, and the girls winning 2-0. These victories solidified the message for South, as they seemingly played with something to prove.

Quinn Janes, one of the goal scorers for South, kneeled during the anthem as a simple form of conveyance, not aggression.

“I kneeled to show the audience that protesting doesn’t have to be direct,” Janes said. “I wanted to show my compassion in a non-aggressive way.”

Janes and company were anything but aggressive during the anthem, and their silent message spoke to thousands across Eugene and beyond. At the end of the day, South can consider this experience as a job well done. Their protest did what every good protest is meant to do: cause an absolute ruckus.

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