Disrespectful and classless.

Some people may disagree. Some may think it too harsh. Others may think my words are not harsh enough.

Those are my thoughts about a number of the Durham Hillside High School players and some of its coaches taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem prior to the start of last Friday night’s game against Halifax County High School at Tuck Dillard Memorial Stadium.

I will be among the first to stand up and acknowledge that the American Flag represents the freedom that so many thousands of people have fought and died for and continue to this day to fight and die for. Among those freedoms is the right to voice and demonstrate our opinion, regardless of whether or not it reflects popular opinion and practice.

In saying that, I think reasonable people understand there is a right way to express dissenting opinion and a wrong way. There are ways to protest or show dissent against single or multiple issues without showing disrespect to the total. Unfortunately, the actions of some of the Durham Hillside players and some of its coaches showed disrespect to the total.

Not surprisingly, the incident, the first of its type to occur at a Halifax County High School athletic event, has resulted in a lot of negative blowback in our community. The negative blowback started showing up on Facebook posts following the game.

At every venue I was at throughout the weekend, people stopped me and voiced overwhelmingly negative comments about what happened. Some went so far as to question the kinds of values the coaches were attempting to instill in the young people they are leading.

The kneeling Durham Hillside High School coaches and players accomplished nothing more than to bring negative attention from our community to themselves and their school. They did nothing to spark any conversation about or bring focus to whatever the core issue is they were supposedly protesting against.

Ditto for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who started this whole kneeling during the National Anthem phenomenon in protest of what he feels are wrongdoings against African Americans and minorities in our country.

One very important note needs to be made here. Durham Hillside Head Coach Ray Harrison, who is also an assistant principal at the school, stood during the playing of the National Anthem as did some players and some coaches.

“I’m a (military) veteran, and I love this nation,” Harrison said during a Monday afternoon telephone conversation.

Harrison said some players on the team had taken a knee during the playing of the National Anthem at his school’s prior home games this season “but more (players) did it this time.”

The Durham Hillside High School coach and administrator pointed out that neither he, nor anyone else can or should do anything to trample on or disrespect the rights and freedom of individuals to express their opinion.

“It’s their (the players’) decision,” Harrison pointed out, “their decision to do what they feel is in their heart.”

Halifax County High School will not be playing Durham Hillside High School again – at least not anytime in the near future. Halifax County High School Athletic Director Allen Lawter said Monday that last Friday’s game marked the end of the two-year cycle with Durham Hillside High School. He has another school already in place for the next two years.

There is a point we must remember – Lawter and Halifax County High School officials cannot control the actions of an opposing team from a visiting school.

“I cannot say that another school that we have to play won’t do it,” Lawter remarked.

“But, we’re going to talk to our kids and try to take care of our kids and hope our kids will do the right thing.”

That’s all you can ask.

Joe Chandler is the sports editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at jchandler@gazettevirginian.com.

Joe Chandler is the sports editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at jchandler@gazettevirginian.com