CHARLOTTE (CBSMiami) – The heated debate over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem has crossed over to athletic programs across the country, impacting players of all ages.
All eyes will be on the Thursday Night Football game in Charlotte when the Carolina Panthers host the Philadelphia Eagles.
In Charlotte, plenty of young football players will be watching what their role models do on the sidelines.
The varsity football players at Vance High School are used to testing their physical limits, but lately they’ve been thinking about a different kind of boundary.
“Do you want to kneel during the anthem?” CBS News correspondent Weijia Jiang asked team captain Nigel Summerville.
“No because I don’t think that’s my place,” Summerville responded.
“Do you think players cross a line when they take a knee?” Jiang followed up.
“I don’t know. That’s not for me to decide. But I think people who take a knee love the country just as much as people who want to stand up for it,” Summerville said.
Head coach Aaron Brand says Charlotte struggles with racial tension.
“Have any of your players expressed a desire to take a knee?” Jiang asked him.
“Honestly they have. I would be telling a story if I said we haven’t had many conversations about it,” he responded.
But Brand decided to remove the option by keeping the team off the field during the national anthem.
“I don’t want the outside world judging our 14 or 15 year olds for something they may do or may feel that could come back and haunt them later on in life,” said Brand.
President Trump has urged the NFL to require players stand for the anthem, but Commissioner Roger Goodell believes more dialogue is needed between owners and players.
UNC Charlotte Professor Daniel Grano researches the link between sports and politics.
“I think it’s a reflection of some of the deeper divisions in the country like hyper-partisanship, problems around race relations, that are especially relevant to professional athletes, especially those in the NFL,” Grano said.
A recent CBS News poll shows 38 percent of adults approve of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, while 52 percent disapprove. Whether they agree with the players or not, 73 percent of those polled think the protestors are trying to call attention to racism.
Coverage of the Eagles/Panthers game begins at 8:00 p.m. on CBS4.