Trump honors Ohio high school football players suspended for carrying thin blue line flag

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President Donald Trump on Monday gave a shout-out to a pair of Ohio high school football players who were suspended after running onto the field carrying a “thin blue line” flag, in a show of support for police.

Speaking on Swanton, Ohio, Monday night during a campaign rally, the president praised the two Little Miami players as they joined him on stage.

“They’re good looking kids. I want to congratulate you,” the president said. “You’ve become famous.”

The players, Brady Williams and Jarad Bentley, ran onto the field in Morrow, Ohio, carrying the thin blue line flag, which is associated with police, along with a “thin red line” flag on behalf of firefighters, ahead of a game on Sept. 11, the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The school initially suspended them from the team indefinitely, though they have since been reinstated after gaining national attention.

Williams’ father is a sheriff’s deputy; Bentley’s dad is a firefighter.

“They’re going to go to Hollywood. They’re going to become famous right now, more famous than President Trump,” the president said as he called out to the crowd for the young men to join him on stage as the crowd cheered.

After being asked if they were glad they carried the flags, Williams said, “Yeah, more than ever.”

Williams, whose left arm was in a sling, sported a thin blue line tie with his suit and was wearing an NYPD cap.

After asking how their team was doing, the two shrugged with Williams adding, “Could be better,” as the president chuckled.

“You know what? You’re doing great. And everybody out here loves you and appreciates you,” Trump responded as the crowd began chanting, “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

In suspending the players earlier this month, Superintendent Gregory Power defended the decision, claiming they broke rules against political demonstrations. Also, according to reports, the students were warned ahead of time not to carry the flags 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 maybe many other families may not agree with from a political perspective.”

In a statement, the high school noted, “Little Miami Local Schools is saddened to see this story take such a negative turn.

“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 noted further. “Little Miami always has – and always will – support our first responders, our veterans, and all who sacrifice to maintain our freedoms.”

In an interview following his suspension, Williams said he wasn’t trying to send a political message.

“Not at all. I was just doing it to honor the people that lost their lives 19 years ago,” Williams, a senior who plays cornerback, said.

“I was all for it,” Bentley added.

“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,” Bentley, who plays linebacker, said.

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Jon Dougherty

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