WEST SEATTLE -- Garfield High School football players and coaching staff took a knee during the national anthem at Friday’s game against West Seattle High School.

Head coach Joey Thomas says his players plan to do so for the rest of the season.

"This came from them," said Thomas. "This came from the kids. Now don't get me wrong, I support it 110 percent and that's where my mind and heart was, but this is what they wanted. And I think that's what makes this so special. This is student driven."

The demonstration comes as several professional athletes have followed the lead of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who first sat, then later kneeled during the anthem before preseason games. Kaepernick says he did it as a silent protest against racial injustice.

"The whole purpose of this, Kaepernick said and we have said several times, that this isn't about disrespecting our troops," said Thomas. "We love our troops. It's because of our troops we can exercise this right, freedom of speech."

Thomas and his entire coaching staff knelt alongside the players during the anthem. Several players from West Seattle High School knelt as well.

"The conversation started two weeks ago, and we were talking about life and some of the things some of the young men have experienced as far as social injustices, and how to deal with certain situations being a man of color," said Thomas. "It's very refreshing to see these young men and women stand up for what they believe in, and I hope this inspires some other teams and other individuals to do the same thing."

A spokesperson for Seattle Public Schools said it's a first amendment issue, and the district fully supports the students' right to freedom of speech.