The entire Proviso East High School varsity football team and coaching staff joined with demonstrators across the country on Saturday when they knelt during the National Anthem before their homecoming game against the visiting Proviso West Panthers.

The Pirates lost 43-12, but the action on the field doesn’t compare to the bigger picture, said Proviso East head football coach DeWan White.

“This is more than just a game,” said White during a Saturday night phone interview. “We want to do what’s right and win at life. This game can only last for so long.”

White said that collective demonstration was in response to a statement made by President Donald Trump last month about NFL players, some of whom have taken to kneeling during the National Anthem out of protest against the abuse by police of African Americans.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b– off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired,'” Trump said. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.'”

In response, some owners of NFL teams demonstrated with their players before games following the president’s remarks, with an increasing number of people across the country getting in on the dissent.

Last week, a portion of the Oak Park and River Forest High School varsity football team, in addition to some members of the marching band, knelt during the National Anthem.

“There’s no law stating that you have to stand for the anthem,” said White. “I think Trump is saying you can play and make this money as long as you stand up for the anthem.”

White said that every member of his team and coaching staff took a knee except for one elderly assistant coach who couldn’t kneel because of physical ailments. White added that the team demonstrated with the full support of Proviso East Principal Patrick Hardy.

“I just want to let them know and learn and understand that we don’t have to accept any and everything from politicians,” White said. “We have freedom of choice. This is America. We have that right. No one is breaking any laws by exercising that right.” 

White said that “there’s a strong possibility” that the team will kneel before its last two remaining games this season.