NISKAYUNA — Niskayuna Central School District Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra Jr. issued a statement just after noon Friday stating that the National Anthem will not be played at the high school pep rally Friday afternoon, as has been the custom in past years.
The statement read in part:
“After careful thought and consideration by our administration, and after meeting with members of our student body, it was decided that the national anthem would not be played as it has been in the past. This is an event focused on school spirit and unity, and there was a concern that given the intensity of this issue and the diversity of viewpoints, that this event could turn what is supposed to be a positive experience for our students into a negative one.”
The decision comes after some Niskayuna football players and a cheerleader knelt during the playing of the national anthem before a football game at the school on Sept. 27. Since that display, at least one of the players who knelt has received negative feedback over the gesture, which emulates similar displays by some NFL players aimed at calling attention to perceived injustices toward people of color, specifically by police officers.
At the beginning of Friday’s home game against Schenectady, the Niskayuna players all stood and linked arms in a show of unity when the “Star Spangled Banner” was played.
During a moment of silence just before the national anthem in memory of the 58 people killed by a gunman in Las Vegas earlier this week, two Niskayuna players took a knee, while the rest stood.
A small group who identified themselves as veterans sat near the front of the stands holding individual American flags and saluted when the anthem was played.
There was also a vehicle whose occupants displayed a Confederate flag in the school parking lot before the game, but students arriving for the game ignored them.
Tangorra’s statement went on to acknowledge that some may disagree with the decision to not play the anthem at the pep rally, but he reiterated the district’s commitment to safety and security for all students.
The statement also said that there would continue to be other displays of patriotism in the school, as there have been in the past, including the Memorial Day ceremony and displaying names of alumni who have served in the Armed Forces.
Tangorra's full statement may be read on the school district’s website at niskyschools.org.