A secondary school football player in Troy, New York, is being recognized for his patriotism after he completed an American flag out to the center of the field during the national anthem.
The Mechanicville Red Raiders were at Catholic Central High School for a football game when they understood the stadium didn’t have a flag.
While Catholic High later explained it forgot to hang the flag back up after doing some work on its press box, no one on the field knew why the flag was absent.
“All the stuff that’s happening now with the flag and stuff … I didn’t know if it was like that or where it was,” Daniel Hayner, the player who brought the flag onto the field, told WTEN.
The Red Raiders reportedly always travel with their own American flag, and Hayner decided it was a good time to put it to use.
“I went over [with the flag] and stood on the end of our line and he was like, ‘No, stand in the middle of the field,’ so I went out in the middle of the field and stood there,” Hayner said.
A parent in the audience took a picture of Hayner holding the flag and posted it to social media, where it quickly went viral.
“People die to protect their country and for the flag,” Hayner said. “People [are] disrespecting it all the time. It needs respect and for the people who served the country and respect it.”
Robert Young, athletic director at Mechanicville High School, said Hayner’s actions are a reflection of his community’s values.
“It was just a spontaneous action from a boy from a small town that just had basically a notion that when you come from a community like this and the things that we try to instill upon them that there’s family, there’s community and our nation, and our country and that really means a lot to him,” Young said.
The principal of Catholic High released a statement apologizing for the confusion.
“The school did not have a flag prepared in a timely manner,” the statement said. “As a principal, I take responsibility for that and we apologize if anyone was offended.”
Elsewhere in the U.S., high school athletes are following the example of NFL player Colin Kaepernick, whose weekly protest of the national anthem has led to heated debate about patriotism and respect for the symbols of the nation.
On Sept. 23, Kaepernick visited a high school football game in Oakland and kneeled down as the players lay on their backs during the national anthem.
“I had to come support y’all, because the same way y’all took a stand and stood with me, I had to come out here and stand with y’all,” Kaepernick said, reports Sports Illustrated. “So I appreciate what y’all did. I love y’all. Y’all my brothers, I’m here with you.”