Debate sparks over "taking a knee" during Riverside HS football - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Debate sparks over "taking a knee" during Riverside HS football games

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Riverside Warriors stand on the sidelines during their game versus Hurricane Friday. Riverside Warriors stand on the sidelines during their game versus Hurricane Friday.
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BELLE, West Virginia -

If you stand on the sidelines at Riverside High School, no one bats an eye.

When it comes to kneeling, people hold different opinions.

Matt McKnight is a sophomore who just quit the football team. He said one of his several reasons for leaving was the new coach's alleged philosophy.

"He said we didn't kneel," said McKnight, who watched the game from the sidelines from Friday night. "He didn't kneel at his old school so we didn't kneel here."

"Taking a knee" is an age-old custom, meant to show respect for players hurt during the football game.

"He yelled at the one game, told them to get up," McKnight said. "I guess you are allowed to kneel, you just get yelled at."

McKnight claimed the coach threatened to bench any player who knelt for the other team.

"You're supposed to show sportsmanship and be respectful of the other team even though you're down by a lot or you're a big rival," he said.

Steven Freeman used to coach football in Huntington. He said there's no policy that dictates kneeling at Riverside, and if a player wants to kneel, he can.

"In regards to taking a knee, I think it's just a miscommunication," said Freeman, who started coaching at Riverside this season. "We're more concerned with our student athletes and our games and getting our kids better and being competitive."

Freeman said "taking a knee" is a personal choice he leaves up to his players.

Principal Valerie Harper said during the first quarter, Riverside players did kneel when a player was injured on the field.

McKnight said at least three students quit the football team this season. Those students' reasons for quitting remain unknown.