“I know the reasons why I took a knee,” said Alondra Rios.
Rios plays forward and middle on the Mills soccer team.
“But when I stood up, some of the fans that wanted to show their patriotism were cheering aggressively,” she said. “Trying to show their side. Almost saying, ‘I’m going to show you what it’s like to be a real American.”
Some of Mills’ soccer players have been taking a knee at their games since the beginning of the season. More than half the team takes a knee during the national anthem.
In light of recent controversy between the NFL and President Trump, athletes across the country have been showing their solidarity by taking a knee during the national anthem.
While it began with Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest in 2016, it has reemerged as Trump made statements about those who chose to kneel.
While Rios and her teammates on the Mills team had not communicated about kneeling beforehand, she said “everybody did it on their own, everybody had different reasons, but we all knew why we didn’t want to stand for it.”
Rios says she kneels to protest what the American flag stands for in today’s society.
“Knowing the history that the flag represents, I cannot stand for it,” Rios said.
Rios and others on the team made the decision to kneel during the national anthem without asking for their coach’s permission.
“Our coach respected our wishes, and let us do what we have to do,” Rios said.
The coach, Lilia Dosalmas, has kneeled at multiple games this season thus far.
Team member Melissa Rivas says that she doesn’t stand for the national anthem because she doesn’t approve of what is going on in the country.
“Out of respect for what is happening in this country, I’m not proud of what’s happening,” Rivas said.
The controversy sparked within the NFL has led to the rivaling opinions of patriotism and protest.
“I feel like as the Mills Community, a lot of people are conscious of what is going on,” Rivas said. “I don’t think it affects our team dynamic, we don’t really talk about it, but it is in the back of our minds. We don’t disrespect each other based on who kneels and who stands.”
Amanda Padilla, along with several others on the team, chooses to stand for the national anthem. Padilla has a brother in the Army, a cousin in the Air Force, and friends in other branches of the military.
“I guess to me there’s a sense of power in standing,” Padilla said. “I’ve always been told to stand for what I believe in and although things aren’t looking bright in the country I can still have belief in my family.”
While there’s no consensus on kneeling or standing, the team expresses the solidarity amongst each other.
“I absolutely feel a sense of solidarity amongst my teammates,” Padilla said. “I’d do anything for them even if we disagree, and that goes for anything, not just kneeling. I have a lot of pride in our team even if some of us kneel and some of us stand.”