A Big Island high school senior has followed the actions of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick by taking a knee during the national anthem before the start of his Kailua-Kona football games this season.
However, Mason Kaawa-Loa, a senior student at Kealakehe High School, said he’s doing it because of what he thinks were injustices done to the Native Hawaiian people by the United States, according to a story in West Hawaii Today.
“I see it as my own message,” said Kaawa-Loa in a story printed in the Kailua-Kona newspaper today.
“I got the idea from Colin Kaepernick. I saw that taking a knee was a respectful way to send a message. I have a lot of respect for America and the people who fight for this country. But I’m not ignorant and don’t just want to be seen as a follower.”
Backup 49ers quarterback Kaepernick in August began refusing to stand during the playing of the national anthem, citing racial divides that include the police shootings of sometimes unarmed African-Americans.
“There are some things that shouldn’t have been changed here and I feel that I can’t stand for something I don’t believe in,” Kaawa-Loa said, citing the annexation of Hawaii. “I’m not going to say it was completely bad because we got a lot of resources out of it. I am saying it was wrong. We can’t change it now, but I feel like there are improvements that can be made.”
But Kaawa-Loa stands on the sideline for “Hawaii Ponoi” — the state anthem.
The Big Island Interscholastic Federation and the high school said there is no policy that requires student-athletes to stand during the national anthem., the newspaper reported.
Kealakehe head coach Sam Kekuaokalani told the newspaper that since Kaawa-Loa decided to take a knee, he has spoken with him on multiple occasions about his motives and thoughts. Recently, Kekuaokalani assigned Kaawa-Loa to write a paper if he wanted to continue his stance.
“I have spoken to him about it and I am trying to use it as an educational opportunity,” Kekuaokalani said. “He’s thinking about it a little more. I want him to fully understand the thoughts behind his actions.”
Kaawa-Loa said he hasn’t spoken to his teammates about his actions.
“They have their own opinions and I have mine,” Kaawa-Loa said. “Whatever they choose is fine by me.”
The Waveriders next game is Saturday at their home stadium.
Kaawa-Loa’s actions during the anthem are not expected to change.
“I’m going to continue to do this,” he said. “This is what I feel is the right thing to do.”
This week the Pacific Fleet reported that Petty Officer 2nd Class Janaye Ervin, an intelligence specialist Navy reservist, may face actions for failing to stand and salute during the playing of the national anthem on Sept. 19 at Pearl Harbor.
A Pacific Fleet spokesman said Navy regulations require uniformed personnel to stand and salute during the playing of the national anthem, Military members in civilian attire are required to stand and hold their hand over their heart.
On Sunday, there were protests at NFL games involving more than 40 players representing the Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Rams, Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles, San Diego Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Carolina Panthers, Washington Redskins, and San Francisco 49ers.
There also have been reports of other high school players on the mainland participating in similar anthem protests.