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Athletic association, coaches react to kneeling players


Starkville High School volleyball players take a knee during the National Anthem at New Hope High Monday evening.

Starkville High School volleyball players take a knee during the National Anthem at New Hope High Monday evening. Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff


From left, Jeff Smith, Don Hinton, Chris Chambliss and Samantha Brooks

From left, Jeff Smith, Don Hinton, Chris Chambliss and Samantha Brooks



Slim Smith



When seven Starkville High School volleyball "took a knee" Monday during the National Anthem in a game at New Hope, what had been a national story was suddenly a local event. 


Over the past week, the incident has been a topic of discussion for school district officials, coaches, parents and state officials. 


In Lowndes County, Jeff Smith, the attorney for the Lowndes County School District, is drafting a proposal that is expected to be presented to the board at its regular meeting Friday. That proposal, Smith said, would require all persons participating in or attending school events to stand for the playing of the National Anthem. 


Smith said he had spoken with the Jim Keith, attorney for the Mississippi High School Activities Association, the governing body for public school extracurricular activities, and believes the MHSAA may adopt the proposal he plans to submit to the school board. 


Smith said Keith asked for a copy of the proposal. 


"I guess they figure there's no point in reinventing the wheel," Smith said.  


However, Don Hinton, executive director of the MHSAA, said Friday there were no current plans to adopt and implement a state-wide policy that would apply to the state's 146 school districts. 


"Speaking for our association, there is no policy in place," Hinton said. "At this time, we don't anticipate adopting a policy. If the schools come to us and make a request, that's something we would consider. To this point, that hasn't happened." 




Area coaches react 


Privately, some coaches and school officials believe adopting a policy would only serve to exacerbate an issue that will soon fade away. Others believe the matter is best resolved "in the family" -- by the individual schools and coaches. 


West Point football coach Chris Chambliss said the incident did come up. 


"I did have a talk with a couple of guys who brought it up," Chambliss said. "Things like this can be a touchy issue in a place like West Point. It's a sensitive issue. But I think our guys are small-town guys. Everyone has their own personal beliefs and experiences with how they are affected by things. We want to respect that. At the same time, our guys are more about togetherness. As a whole, our team respects our country and our veterans, so I'd be very surprised to see this sort of thing from our players." 


Caledonia volleyball coach Samantha Brooks said she made a point to talk with her team about what happened. 


"Yes, sir. We did talk about it," Brooks said. "Our feeling is that there is a time and place for everything and something that has always been a part of our team has been that we want to represent our school with class." 


Brooks, in her 11th year as the Caledonia volleyball coach, said she had no opinion as to whether there should be a district-wide or state-wide policy. 


"All of this came up recently, so I haven't really had time to form an opinion on that." 


Chambliss said he was comfortable that coaches could manage the situation without such written policies. 


"I would certainly hope this is something the coaches and players can deal with," said Chambliss, now in his 18th season as the Green Wave football coach. "I think I have a strong enough personality and our team is together enough that things like this won't be a problem. When we have issues that come up, we'll talk about, discuss ways to deal with things in a positive way. 


"We're a family here and what happens in the family stays in the family and is dealt with in the family. That's the best way, in my opinion."


Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]



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