Poly football player protests during anthem before 32-14 loss to Dunbar

The Baltimore Sun

Poly senior Steven Sutton wanted to make a point. That’s why he squatted during the national anthem when it was played before Friday night’s game against No. 11 Dunbar.

Sutton said he has been doing this at “pretty much every game” since last year. He is deeply concerned that people in this country are missing the point on issues of racial equality, and that’s something the running back/safety wanted to address before the visiting Poets handed his Engineers a 32-14 loss in a Baltimore City game.

The senior went to the left end of the row of Poly players right by the field, and when the national anthem started, he squatted. Several in the stands did not stand up either, also making their points.

And Sutton expressed why he’s passionate about this issue.

“I feel until we get equality and equity and until people address the real issue that’s going on in society, [I’ve] got to take a stand for it,” Sutton said. “I think mostly … people gloss over the deeper meaning about it.”

Dunbar (4-1, 3-0 in the city) did not even show up on the field for the national anthem. The Poets, in fact, came out on to the track behind the Poly bench with just about a minute or two remaining until kickoff — after “The Star-Spangled Banner” played.

Dunbar coach Lawrence Smith emphasized his team was not trying to protest anything. He said the Poets were not aware of what was happening on the field.

“We didn’t even know the national anthem was going on,” Smith said. “That wasn’t any protest. We were in there preparing.”

They prepared well, as quarterback Jared Lewis threw for two touchdowns, and running back Andre Brandon ran for two more. The Poets reeled off 26 straight points after an early 6-6 tie to take command.

Dunbar was able to move the ball in the air and on the ground. The game’s biggest play, though, might’ve been the 43-yard touchdown pass Lewis threw to Shaun Tolbert on the last play of the first half.

Tolbert battled his way into the end zone as time ran out, giving the Poets an 18-6 lead, something that clearly deflated Poly (2-3, 1-2). Dunbar kept gaining yards and got deep into Engineers territory.

“We were very fluid and solid,” Lewis said. “We were just moving.”

Still, the Engineers wasted some good first-half scoring chances. They twice got inside the Dunbar 20 and came up empty both times. If Poly had scored even once, it could have changed the game.

“We got in the red zone twice,” Poly coach Dwayne Green said. “You’ve got to score in the red zone. That’s two scores we left on the field.”

It was Poly’s final home game this season, which might’ve been another reason Sutton wanted to again make his quiet point.

When asked why he squatted instead of taking a knee like a number of NFL players, Sutton said there was no hidden meaning there.

“It’s just more comfortable,” he said.

In the end, though, Sutton clearly is not comfortable with this issue of racial equality. He said it’s something he has yet to completely figure out. But Sutton thinks those who feel players who kneel or even squat, like him, are just doing it for attention, they’re missing the point.

“It’s not just us trying to get attention,” Sutton said. “It’s about getting attention for the right thing – for a cause.”

Dunbar 32, Poly 14

D 6 12 8 6--32

P 0 6 0 8--14

D- Whitt 16 punt return (pass failed)

P--Chambers 26 pass from Harvey (run failed)

D- Brandon 6 run (run failed)

D- Tolbert 43 pass from Lewis (run failed)

D- Wood 22 pass from Lewis (Graham pass from Lewis)

D- Brandon 8 run (run failed)

P- Chambers 5 pass from Harvey (Winder pass from Harvey)

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