Officials in a North Carolina school district have canceled a football game at a high school where cheerleaders were placed on probation for displaying a banner that said, ‘Trump 2020: Make America Great Again.
Stanly County Schools announced Friday that it decided to cancel the North Stanly High School game over what it called ‘additional information that could compromise safety measures’ for sporting events. Officials didn’t detail that information.
Supporters had urged fans to attend the game to back the cheerleaders and protest the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s decision to put the squad on probation.
Members of the squad posed for photos with the banner which was displayed before the August 30 game at North Stanly, 50 miles northeast of Charlotte.
The photo of the cheerleaders was circulated on social media before the North Carolina High School Athletic Association decided to take action.
County Schools Superintendent Jeff James has said all North Carolina schools have a policy against displaying political signs.
Several people had planned to hold a rally before Friday’s game to support the cheerleading squad.
‘There was no threat,’ Jeremy Onitreb, one of the rally organizers, told the McClatchy news group. ‘Nobody’s coming up there to hurt the kids. It’s not what this was about.’
‘We are here for those cheerleaders who have been wrongly accused of being racist, nazis and any other name you can think of,’ Onitreb said, who is believed to have ties to far right organizations according to the Stanly News and Press.
‘The reason they decided to cancel the game is because somebody out there wanted to shut down our free speech so bad — they wanted to shut this rally down so bad — that they were willing to call the school and threaten the school,’ Onitreb said in a Facebook live video on the event page.
‘I’m flabbergasted,’ he added.
Days after the team was put on probation, dozens filled the parking lot across the street from the school to show support for the girls.
‘We have free speech in this nation and it’s ok to waive a Trump sign. You can do that. You can support your president so I was very disgusted it by it and I really wanted to be out here today to show support for the kids,’ Alina Blue said to Fox46.
The cheerleaders will be on probation for a year but had been expected to continue cheering.
Officials said the probation was not a form of punishment but rather served as a warning.
The athletic association can issue fines or suspensions if the squad continues to display political banners.
Superintendent James said the banner wasn’t planned or endorsed by the school or staff.
‘The focus of Friday night football games should be on our students – the players, cheerleaders, band members – the focus should not be on politics,’ officials said.
‘For this reason, we are hopeful the situation will resolve, and our student athletes can have a successful fall season.’
Some were outraged by the decision to place the cheerleaders on probation in the first place and created a Facebook Event page in support of the squad urging people to come to the game to show their support..
‘The North Stanly High School cheerleaders have been wrongly put on probation by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association for the rest of the football season because of holding up a Trump banner before a home game on 8-30-2019,’ the event page reads.
‘Please come out and help me show the school and the NCHSAA that freedom of speech is not dead. Please bring all your Trump and MAGA gear and lets throw our support behind the North Stanly High School cheerleaders.’
SOURCE: The Associated Press