This guest column is by Tom Steward, the Center of the American Experiment's Government Accountability Reporter. He is based in the Twin Cities.
Where would Education Minnesota’s teacher of the year Kelly Holstine be without President Trump? The alternative school teacher at Tokata Learning Center in Shakopee first called attention to herself by letting it be known to the media she was skipping a White House ceremony to honor teachers last spring.
Holstine told the Shakopee Valley News her opposition to the president’s policies precluded her from being anywhere near Trump.
Holstine said this diverse group of students at Tokata — many of whom are or are related to undocumented immigrants or are Somali refugees — face discrimination daily and the Trump administration’s immigration policies and rhetoric impacts and hurts them.
“And so for me, this is for my kids (students),” she said. “I cannot even implicitly support people who hate my kids.”
Since then Holstine has evidently changed her mind about sharing the spotlight with Trump. Jan. 13, she showed up on the same playing field as Trump, along with other teachers being honored in the pregame lead-up to the College Football Playoff National Championship game in New Orleans.
Honored as State Teachers of the Year at NCAA Champ FB Game. Given platform to stand up for marginalized and oppressed people. Like many before, I respectfully kneeled during Nat’l Anthem because, “No one is free until we are all free” (MLK). #imwithkap #blacklivesmatter #LGBTQ pic.twitter.com/DimP3pBtBn
Honored as State Teachers of the Year at NCAA Champ FB Game. Given platform to stand up for marginalized and oppressed people. Like many before, I respectfully kneeled during Nat’l Anthem because, “No one is free until we are all free” (MLK). #imwithkap #blacklivesmatter #LGBTQ pic.twitter.com/DimP3pBtBn— Kelly D. Holstine (she/her) (@kellydholstine) January 14, 2020
During the singing of the national anthem, the English instructor called an audible and took a knee in protest. But with a gigantic American flag on the field and all eyes on singer Lauren Daigle, the president and first lady, not many in the Superdome seemed to notice her Colin Kaepernick moment, apparently including Trump.
From a distance it looked as though Holstine might be bending over to tie her shoe laces or pick up something she’d dropped. So the Minnesota teacher turned to Twitter to make sure the media got her point.
The next few days the media had better things to do following up on one of the better national championship football games of late. But word of Holstine’s ineffective effort finally got the attention of The Hill and other outlets.
The educator said she found out that Trump would be on the field with the teachers ahead of her decision to kneel. She said the honorees were told they could place their hand on their heart, as is traditionally done, or not during the national anthem.
The guidance made Holstine start to consider if standing without placing her hand on her heart “was enough” to support the people she wanted to support. After consulting with other educators and her wife, Holstine said she decided to kneel.
If someone took a knee in the middle of the Superdome and no one noticed, did it matter? Only in the media.