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Leslie McCarthy

Taking A Knee

September 28, 2017
Something unforgettable happened on a football field last weekend, and Tom and I were there to witness it: Two football teams lined up in solidarity; a single player taking a knee.

No, this wasn't an NFL game on Sunday, nor was the gesture in reaction to anything political.

This was a Division III football game in a small Indiana town, in front of maybe 1,000 fans. What we witnessed was brotherhood in action, and camaraderie so poignant that it brought this football fan to tears.

Some background: The Tigers of DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., hosted one of its North Coast Athletic Conference rivals, The College of Wooster. Our son, Jack, is a junior at DePauw and member of the Tigers' football team.

Six days earlier, a member of the Wooster team, a senior chemistry major named Clayton Geib, died hours after playing in a football game. The cause of death is still unknown.

And so a full 24 hours before "take a knee" grew from a social media hashtag into a national debate, a gesture on a football field in Indiana became a memorial that no mother wants to see.

After a moment of silence that preceded the kickoff, Wooster took the field with only 10 players, and lined up on offense in what's called the missing man formation. The players shook hands across the line of scrimmage, the quarterback took the snap, and then he took a knee while DePauw allowed an untimed down.

After the play, DePauw players walked across the line of scrimmage and extended helmet pats and more handshakes, before the Wooster team regrouped on the sideline. The crowd stood, politely clapping in support.

It was a powerful moment on a field of play. I couldn't help but feel the lump in my throat, searching the sideline for my boy, No. 91, knowing that somewhere there's a mother who will never get to watch her son play again. When you're a parent watching a football game, all those boys are our sons.

I've written before about being a football mom. Is it a perilous game? Yes. But these days, life is a dangerous game. From what I've seen watching my boys these past 10 years, the lessons learned on a football field far, far outweigh the risk. Lessons of brotherhood, teamwork and camaraderie are invaluable. And sometimes, standing up or kneeling for a cause in which you believe, well that's OK, too.

Which is why 24 hours later, I didn't view the pregame actions of any NFL player as disrespect to the values of our country. I viewed it as a mom, knowing that any gesture on a football field is not going to be made lightly. Those NFL boys, kneeling and standing, they're all our sons, too.

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