Auburn Riverside decided taking a knee was getting in way of winning

The team found that its protests last season was splintering the locker room, so it changed up its pre-anthem routine. The Ravens have won eight of their last nine.

Not protesting is part of Auburn Riverside’s success.

The Ravens, which are 10th in The Seattle Times’ Class 4A state rankings, are undefeated after four games and have won eight of their past nine since last season when teams began kneeling for the national anthem in protest of injustices. Auburn Riverside features a diverse roster, and several players followed activist Colin Kaepernick’s lead when he refused to stand for the anthem while playing in the NFL in 2016 due to oppression against minorities.

Teammates that remained standing held no animosity toward their kneeling teammates, according to Riverside coach Bryant Thomas. But a parent made a Facebook post attacking the kids, which started to splinter the locker room. Death threats were allegedly made and vitriol between families was shared, the zenith being the game at Todd Beamer, which had a USA Day where flags were everywhere, according to Thomas.

The Ravens lost 34-7 in their first game against the Titans in Thomas’ five years guiding the program.

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“They have a right to protest,” Thomas said. “But we had a team meeting after that (game) where I told them … our season is going in the wrong direction and here’s one of the reasons why. They had to decide if that political statement is more important than us having some success on the football field as a team. Because it literally splintered our team.”

The players chose the team, putting hands on each other’s shoulders for the anthem. Nine starters on both sides of the ball have returned, keeping the strong bond.

Hosting Beamer in a North Puget Sound League game on Friday, Thomas is eager to see how the stance influences the game.

The Titans, who won the NPSL Olympic Division last year, are also on a four-game win streak to open this season.

“Now, we don’t have any distractions,” Thomas said. “So, it should be like a heavyweight fight and whoever can last the longest is going to come out on top.”

Auburn Riverside gave up its first touchdown of the season — an 80-yard pass — in a win against Auburn Mountainview last week. But Beamer likes to run the ball much like Riverside.

“They have a solid ballclub,” Thomas said. “(Senior Colin) McKay is…

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