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Entire high school team kneels for national anthem

SEATTLE (KIRO/CNN) – Student-athletes across the country are mimicking Colin Kaepernick’s flag protest by taking a knee on the sideline during the national anthem.

One Washington state team made it a coordinated effort.

Facing the flag, Garfield High School staff and students knelt together, one hand on the next person’s shoulder. It’s a choice coach Joey Thomas said they made together after conversations about racial injustices they’d seen across the nation.

“If these kids can be courageous enough to do this as kids, and they’re leading by example, what impact can you have?” Thomas said. We respect people in the armed forces, the Army, the Navy. This is not a disrespectful movement, and I think that’s kind of a smokescreen not to deal with the issues.”

Half a dozen players from West Seattle, Garfield’s opponent, knelt as well.

“I don’t know if they really understand why they’re doing it,” parent Donna Vennhuizen said. “I feel that they’re just emulating the professional players they’ve seen do it.”

West Seattle assistant coach Jeff Ursino said he wanted to make sure there was no peer pressure for his players one way or the other.

“Some of us chose to stand for the same idea that would cause them to kneel,” Ursino said. “And we respect that their expression might look different that some of our expression. But in the end, we all share that same goal.”

Ursino said it was not for decide if the protest was disrespectful.

“It depends on what’s in that person’s heart,” Ursino said. “I’m not the one to judge.”

Kelsey Lenzi, the student who sang the anthem, said she looked out at those kneeling on the field and didn’t mind.

“As long as people are listening, and they know what I’m singing about, that’s all that matters,” Lenzi said.

Copyright 2016 KIRO via CNN. All rights reserved.

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