Seattle high school football team kneels for national anthem

September 17, 2016 11:04 AM EDT

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By David Ingram

(Reuters) - A Seattle high school football team knelt during the playing of the national anthem before a game on Friday night, embracing a silent protest for social justice initiated last month by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Players and coaches from Garfield High School knelt in unison before their game against West Seattle High School, and some West Seattle players also knelt, according to local news reports and social media.

Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers' No. 2 quarterback, declined to stand during the national anthem ahead of a pre-season game on Aug. 26, setting off a debate about race relations, policing and the mixing of politics and sports.

Garfield players decided to kneel after talking among themselves about Kaepernick and social injustice, Coach Joey Thomas said.

"Let's just talk about it. How are you killing these African American males on camera and we can't even get a day in court?" Thomas said, according to the Seattle Times.

Players and coaches plan to continue kneeling all season, Thomas said in a video posted by KCPQ-TV.

High school football players in Camden, New Jersey, knelt during the national anthem before a game there last weekend, a local NBC affiliate reported. Players from San Francisco's Mission High School also took a knee before a game last Saturday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The U.S. national anthem, Francis Scott Key's "Star Spangled Banner," is a target of protest in part because its rarely-performed third verse celebrates the defeat of slaves who fought with the British during the War of 1812.

Most Americans think Kaepernick's refusal to stand for the anthem is unpatriotic but support his right to free speech, while nearly half do not think the National Football League should penalize him, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday.

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Nick Zieminski)

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