After weeks filled with controversy in Newberg — during which a Newberg High School student was revealed to be part of a racist Snapchat group, the local school board continued its pursuit of a ban on Black Lives Matter and Pride imagery, and a school employee showed up to work in blackface — a form of silent protest found its way on to Loran Douglas Field earlier this month.
The Southridge High School girls soccer team knelt during the national anthem before their game against Newberg, doing so in solidarity with Newberg's Black students.
Southridge posted a photo of the protest on its official athletic department Instagram page with the caption, "Way to stand together tonight Skyhawks!" The comment section of the page was soon flooded with Newberg parents and community members thanking them for their message.
"As a Newberg parent of a Black player, I want to again say thank you to the Southridge team for the ways that you showed up last night," Heidi Pender wrote in one of the nearly 50 comments, all but one of which were supportive of the Skyhawks' protest. "I appreciate your message and your bravery. I know it felt scary to come play Newberg last night. I'm so sorry you were not received with kindness by some of the parents. But I want you to know there are people in Newberg who appreciate you!"
"To this brave, amazing Southridge team, from a Newberg High School employee and mama to a Black student: thank you from the bottom of my heart," user jaobudd commented. "Y'all are world changers and we are so proud of you and your commitment to showing up in all of the important ways. Thank you."
According to Newberg parents in attendance, a handful of Southridge students attended the game as well and held up signs that read "Black Lives Matter" and "Newberg do better." Those students were allegedly ejected from the game by NHS administrators and forced to watch from outside the fence.
"Three individuals who were not Newberg High School students, nor Newberg community members, attempted to access the field with large banners," NHS athletic director Tim Burke said in an emailed statement. "As per OSAA and NHS policy, any banners/signs larger than 8.5" x 11" are not allowed and must be in support of either of the teams involved in the contest. The individuals left and returned with 8.5" x 11" signs. They were respectful and spent the majority of the contest outside of the fencing of our facility."
Burke initially said there was no protest by the Southridge girls soccer team, but eyewitness accounts from Newberg parents, an NHS coach and the photo posted by Southridge's athletic department indicates the protest did happen.
"I saw many of the Southridge girls kneel for the anthem and heard that there were a few people at the game for a silent protest, but don't really have any more information than that," NHS coach Scott Diefenbaugh said via email. "My focus last night was completely on my team and our competition."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.