Trump snubbed by 'teacher of the year' who knelt in front of him during anthem at college football game

Kelly Holstine makes her point in a protest inspired by African-American athletes which is known to enrage the president

Alex Woodward
New York
Thursday 16 January 2020 22:04
'Teacher of the year' Kelly Holstine on how to support children

A Minnesota woman recognised as a "teacher of the year" knelt during the US national anthem at a college football championship game attended by Donald Trump in a protest inspired by black athletes that is known to infuriate him.

During the 2020 championship game in New Orleans between LSU and Clemson University, Kelly Holstine knelt on the field in front of the president and Melania Trump to support "marginalised and oppressed people". Other teachers who received the honour remained standing in a line either side of her.

On Twitter, she quoted civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, saying: "Like many before, I respectfully kneeled during Nat'l Anthem because, 'No one is free until we are all free'."

She also rejected an invitation to the White House for an Oval Office ceremony to receive the honour from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Jessica Dueñas of Kentucky also skipped the event.

Ms Holstine — who teaches at an alternative high school in Shakopee that serves Somali refugees and students who identify as LGBT+ — said that the "words and practices and policies of the administration have been filled with a lot of hate" towards LGBT+ people. "I didn't feel comfortable in that environment."

In an October 2019 speech, Ms Holstine argued for teachers to become advocates for, not just allies to, marginalised and oppressed people.

Related video: Kelly Holstine says educators must be more than allies

The Teacher of the Year recognition from the College Football Playoff Foundation and the Council of Chief State School Officers selects a teacher from each state to receive the honour.

Ms Holstine is the first openly LGBT+ person to receive the honour.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick inspired a protest movement after he began kneeling during the anthem in 2016 as a silent protest against racial injustice and police brutality following the killings of unarmed black men in the US.

He became a free agent following that season amid speculation that the NFL had effectively blocked him from the league.

Mr Trump has suggested that people who kneel during the anthem should not only be dismissed from the game but also "shouldn't be in the country".

In 2018, he said: "You have to stand, proudly, for the national anthem or you shouldn't be playing. You shouldn't be there. Maybe you shouldn't be in the country. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. And the NFL owners did the right thing, if that's what they've done."

That year, another teacher protested against the president by handing him letters from her refugee and immigrant students. Washington teacher Mandy Manning wore pins and buttons expressing solidarity with LGBT+ people.

Ms Manning also launched a group, Teachers Against Child Detention, and led a protest in Texas to demand the government release children from their imprisonment along the US-Mexico border.

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