Two high school football players have been suspended from the team after they carried ‘thin blue line’ and ‘thin red line’ flags onto the field before a game despite being told by school officials not to do so, according to reports.
Cornerback Brady Williams and linebacker Jared Bentley, who attend Little Miami High School, asked for permission to carry the flags but were told no, Fox 19 reports. The players wanted to honor firefighters and police officers on the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to Fox 19.
“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 show their support of our first responders, they did not obtain permission from district officials. Administrators must act when students break the rules.”
The incident is similar to a controversy at Chardon High School. A player carried a ‘thin blue line’ flag onto the field before a game, leading the superintendent to ban the flag, saying the school district policy doesn’t permit engaging in political activity.
The “thin blue line flag” has been used a symbol of support and solidarity with members of law enforcement for decades. But in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and amid the Black Lives Matter movement, the flag has become polarizing. As a symbol of the pro-police Blue Lives Matter group, critics say the flag — a black-and-white American flag with a royal blue stripe — can be racist, representing a division between police and the communities they serve.
The “thin red line” flag is meant to honor firefighters injured or killed while on duty.
School district officials say a ceremony to memorialize the victims of 9/11 was held Friday night before the game. The U.S. flag also is carried through the tunnel before each home game, officials say.
“Little Miami always has – and always will – support our first responders, our veterans, and all who sacrifice to maintain our freedoms,” the district’s statement says.
Still, Little Miami Superintendent Gregory Power tells Local 12 he has been receiving hate emails and voicemails because of the players’ suspension. A rally to support the players is being planned before a home game on Sept. 25, reports say.
The Little Miami School District is in Warren County, which is in southwest Ohio, northeast of Cincinnati.
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