LINCOLN, Neb. — A Lincoln high school player has joined San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in taking a knee during the national anthem, protesting racial oppression and inequality.

Sterling Smith of Southeast High School says he did so before last week’s game and will do so again Friday against Omaha North and continue through the rest of the season.

Smith says the discussions that followed Kaepernick’s protests shed light on the difficult subject of race and give people a chance to talk about those issues. Smith says he, too, wanted to start a conversation.

The school district says it encourages athletes and spectators to stand during the national anthem but also recognizes the nation’s freedom of speech. It says no one is legally required to stand.