Tensions escalate at youth football game after some players kneel during national anthem

BETHEL PARK, Pa. — Emotions ran so high at a youth football game Saturday night between 12- and 13-year-olds from Woodland Hills and Bethel Park that police were called, Channel 11 News learned.

over the weekend after the game, telling Channel 11 that tensions seemed to begin to rise after some of his players kneeled during the playing of the national anthem.

"It seemed like everything started once the national anthem started. Two or three of my players took a knee,” he said. “Once they took a knee, you see cameras and people taking pictures. And out of nowhere you hear, ‘If the little N-word want to take a knee, they shouldn't be able to play."

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Burkley said the comment came from the stands. He said his 12- and 13-year-old players then heard it on the field.

"Players told me, they say, ‘Coach, they're calling us the N-word,’” Burkley said.

The coach said tensions escalated from there. He said his players’ parents at one point tried to get food at the concession stand and were turned away.

"They just said, ‘We're not serving you Woodland Hills people. This is for Bethel fans, it's our senior day.’ But with all that going on, it seemed like another attack,” Burkley said.

Woodland Hills won the game but not before police were called to stand guard on the field and keep the peace, Burkley said.

"It was a sad night, and we were glad to get out of there,” he said.

Burkley's team has played in the Parkway Youth Football League for two years. He said never in that time, or during his years as a player, did he see such hatred.

"Those three or four bad apples, however many people were saying that stuff, doesn't represent the town of Bethel Park,” Burkley said. “But it was bad."

Channel 11 News also spoke with Paul Currie, the president of the Bethel Park Junior Football League Monday night. He said that he was not aware of the comments being made and did not hear them. Currie said, however, if they were said, he does not condone that behavior.

Currie said he was working to get to the bottom of the situation.