While the NFL Mulls What to Do about Its National Anthem Policy, a Group of Activists Plan to Take Their Own Knees in the Name of Social Justice Saturday as Fans Pack into Heinz Field for the Pittsburgh Steelers Preseason Game [Derived Headline]

By Lindstrom, Natasha | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 24, 2018 | Go to article overview

While the NFL Mulls What to Do about Its National Anthem Policy, a Group of Activists Plan to Take Their Own Knees in the Name of Social Justice Saturday as Fans Pack into Heinz Field for the Pittsburgh Steelers Preseason Game [Derived Headline]


Lindstrom, Natasha, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


While the NFL mulls what to do about its national anthem policy, a group of activists plan to take their own knees in the name of social justice Saturday as fans pack into Heinz Field for the Pittsburgh Steelers preseason game.

"If the players can't kneel, we can kneel for them," said Tracy Baton, 55, of Pittsburgh's Park Place neighborhood, the event's organizer and director of Women's March Pittsburgh.

Advocates affiliated with the Women's March and Black Lives Matter movements have obtained permits to lead peaceful protests not only at the Steelers' two home preseason games, but also every home game of the season.

Baton said she wants fans to know the protest is not intended to be anti-player, anti-NFL nor anti-American -- but rather to promote social justice needs and priorities, such as voter engagement and police accountability.

"Many of us will be there because we're Steelers' fans," said Baton, a licensed social worker with Community Empowerment Association, a children's services provider based in Pittsburgh's Homewood neighborhood. "As Americans, nonviolent peaceful protest is our birthright. It is being an American, it is being a citizen -- taking a knee in a nonviolent way to call attention to how we can be better to each other and for each other."

The inaugural "Stand for Justice/Kneel for those who cannot" protest is set to begin near the stadium at the corner of Art Rooney Avenue and North Shore Drive at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, shortly before the Steelers take on the Tennessee Titans in their first preseason home game of the season.

The protest will start with an invocation and a few speakers, followed by activists taking a knee when "The Star-Spangled Banner" plays shortly before the 4 p.m. kickoff.

If enough people participate, they'd like to form a ring of people kneeling around the stadium.

More than 400 people say they are going or have interest in going on the event's Facebook page.

Baton emphasized they are not planning to block access to the game. They plan to remain on the city-owned sidewalks around Heinz Field.

The kneeling movement, which started with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, began as a protest against police brutality and racial inequality. Several players have said while kneeling during the anthem they were praying for America and eradicating injustices confronting blacks and other minorities.

"The biggest challenge I have is explaining to people that Black Lives Matter isn't a group, it's a movement," Baton said. "It's not that I'm promoting a group, I'm promoting an idea: that all Americans need justice, that justice needs to go to each and every one of us, including poor black boys. …

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