Brunswick High football player joins national anthem protest, receives backlash for kneeling

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Brunswick High School senior football player Rodney Axson Jr. knelt during the playing of the United States national anthem at the team’s second game of the season last weekend.

But the quarterback, who is black, learned unpleasantly that some teammates and team followers did not support his decision.

“The week has been like a getting a big monkey off my back, but the week has been rough,” Axson said. “But I knew there was going to be a lot of feedback.”

Before Axson and Brunswick took the field last week against Austintown-Fitch, which has a roster with a majority of black players, the senior overheard the n-word being used by his teammates. Axson said his teammates were referring to their opponents and took offense into their remarks. He responded by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem.

Axson said during a week where his peers distanced themselves, racial slurs and malicious messages were directed to him via text and social media accounts.

Brunswick superintendent Michael Mayell issued a statement to Channel 19 News that investigations are ongoing into the allegations and that “racial slurs and hate speech have no place in Brunswick schools.”

On Friday, the case became evidently clear when neither football players from Brecksville nor Brunswick were on the sidelines during Friday’s playing of the national anthem.

This incident comes in the wake of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick starting a wave of athletes taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem because of the racial tensions across the country.

Members of the Seattle Seahawks locked arms during the anthem before Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins; and some Dolphins players kneeled.

“It’s disheartening. It’s disturbing,” mother Danielle Axson said. “We made a conscious choice to move him into this community for obvious reasons…so to see those words in writing it’s disheartening. Even as a child this is a learned behavior. You just don’t feel that way about people.”

The quarterback’s decision to kneel happened the same weekend Seattle Reign soccer forward Megan Rapinoe took a knee during the anthem on Sept. 4 in a 2-2 draw against Chicago. In the days to follow for the Reign’s trip to Washington D.C., Spirit owner Bill Lynch took action to avoid any players taking a knee by playing the national anthem without the teams on the field.

Rodney Axson Sr. said his son will continue playing football and taking a knee for future games. Brunswick’s next game is at home against conference opponent Solon on Friday.

“In our eyes, we don’t want our kids to quit on anything,” Axson Sr. said.

Axson has continued to attend his classes in the past week.

He added that the family remains active in the investigation and has received support from the Cleveland NAACP Chapter.

“Rodney has a bright future,” chapter president Mike Nelson said. “It’s important that we eliminate all the variables in his way.”

Update Monday morning: According to a press release, the Axson family and leaders of the Cleveland NAACP will address the press following a meeting with the Brunswick Police Department today at 4:15 p.m. The meeting will take place in front of the police station located at 4085 Center Rd. in Brunswick. See story.

See related: Brecksville defeats Brunswick 42-35 in overtime

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