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An Ohio high school has indefinitely suspended football players who showed their support for first responders as they hit the field for a game on September 11.
Little Miami High School in Morrow, Ohio, suspended two students who opted to carry out the Thin Blue Line and Thin Red Line flags ahead of the game Friday, saying they broke the rules despite their desire to honor fallen firefighters and police officers, WKRC-TV reported.
Two Little Miami football players pay the price for civil disobedience. They were told not to carry onto the field thin blue line and thin red line flags at their 9/11 game. They did anyway. The school has now suspended them from the team indefinitely. #ThinBlueLine #ThinRedLine pic.twitter.com/19y9GAvaxr
— David Winter (@DavidWinterTV) September 14, 2020
Superintendent Gregory Power told the station that the decision stands on suspending Brady Williams and Jarad Bentley from the team as the boys reportedly did not follow previous instructions to leave the flags off the field. The school’s athletic director delivered the news to the students on Monday.
Brady insisted there was no political motivation in his decision to carry the Thin Blue Line flag on to the field on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.
“Not at all. I was just doing it to honor the people that lost their lives 19 years ago,” the senior cornerback, whose father is a police officer, told WKRC.
“I was all for it,” teammate Bentley, who carried the Thin Red Line flag, said.
“Because my dad is a firefighter, and if it had been him killed on 9/11, I would have wanted someone to do it for him,” the linebacker added.
The players had reportedly asked the school for permission ahead of the game but were told they could not bring the flags, which some see as controversial, onto the field.
“We can’t have students who decide to do something anyway after they’ve been told that they shouldn’t be doing it,” Power told WKRC. “We did not want to place ourselves in a circumstance where another family might want a different flag to come out of the tunnel, one that may be [one that] many other families may not agree with from a political perspective.”
The school district responded to the incident by reiterating that rules were broken.
“Little Miami Local Schools is saddened to see this story take such a negative turn,” the district said in a statement.
“While we understand these students’ desire to show their support of our first responders, they did not obtain permission from district officials. Administrators must act when students break the rules,” the statement continued. “Little Miami always has – and always will – support our first responders, our veterans, and all who sacrifice to maintain our freedoms.”
The teens will reportedly be supported in a rally that is planned before a home game on Sept. 25, according to Cleveland.com.
Meanwhile, Power admitted to WKRC that he has been receiving hate messages by phone and in emails since the decision was made and Williams’ mother commented on Facebook.
“On the anniversary of one of the worst days in American history, my son and some of his teammates want to honor the men and women who gave their lives to save others,” Kellie Williams wrote before Monday’s suspension was announced.
“Unfortunately, they were told no. NO?! On the 19th anniversary of 9/11?! Let me also say that one of their coaches is a police officer. One of their players LOST a family member on 9/11/01. My emails to the AD, assistant AD, and AD secretary have all gone unanswered. I have never been more disappointed in a school’s decision,” she added. “Sometimes standing for something that’s right, means you may stand alone.”
** UPDATE- THE TWO PLAYERS CARRYING THE TBL AND TRL FLAGS HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED INDEFINITELY FROM ATHLETICS **
Many of the comments on her post, and the update after the suspension, expressed support for the players and many questioned the potential double standard.
“I wonder if they would’ve been suspended if they took a knee. Guess it’s a one sided street,” commented on Facebook user.
The reactions on Twitter also seemed to favor the students for their salute.
Superintendent says he didn’t want to open it up for other players to wave flags of other political statements. Since when is honoring first responders on 9/11 a political statement? Especially when the boys fathers are police and firefighters?
— pz (@pooz95041131) September 15, 2020
Honoring fallen officers and firefighters from 9/11 is not a political statement. Its a sign of respect. Mr Power please resign.
— ER RN (@VeteranDocHM2) September 15, 2020
President Trump should invite them to the White House.https://t.co/yZaBPWnF9A
— Elvis Trump (@Elvis_Trump) September 15, 2020
— Jkidd (@jkidd154champ) September 15, 2020
Rest of the team should walk out on school. Support your teammates. Let the school forfeit the season.
— db (@dbw8) September 15, 2020
I would bet $$$ that inside that school there is a BLM banner hanging somewhere.
— Pimp G (@PimpG18) September 15, 2020