It was all just intended to be a good-natured celebratory dance for the Perry Hall (Md.) High boys soccer team. Now, "The Bernie" has ended the team's season.
As first reported by Perry Hall Patch and followed up quickly by ABC 2 News and other Baltimore outlets, the Perry Hall boys soccer team's season was canceled by school principal George Roberts after the team celebrated its playoff victory against Dulaney (Md.) High with a wild, gyrating dance colloquially referred to as "The Bernie" for its portrayal from "Weekend at Bernie's II," where it is performed by the eponymous corpse.
After a tense regional quarterfinal playoff victory, the entire Perry Hall team gathered near midfield and performed "The Bernie" in unison. That action left parents of the deposed Dulaney team "appalled," according to Perry Hall Patch, with some parents calling the dance "sexually suggestive."
"In my four years at Perry Hall, this is the first time an entire team has been suspended [from playing]," Roberts told Perry Hall Patch. "If I thought it was too harsh, I would have made another decision.
"Children should celebrate by cheering each other, giving high fives, hugs and pats on the back. But in my view, a choreographed, celebratory dance is not the way to celebrate victory. That celebration method is not acceptable. It's not what we expect from our student athletes at Perry Hall High School."
Among the issues being raised to counter Roberts' logic is the team's history of celebrating with "The Bernie." According to one Perry Hall boys soccer parent, the team routinely celebrated by dancing "The Bernie" on the sideline. Sometimes it was even brought out for big plays.
More simply, parent Jen Carolyn said the dance was just an innocent example of teenage boys enjoying some good, clean fun.
"I was there the whole time. ... When those boys did the 'Bernie' dance, they went out to the middle of field. There was no grabbing of privates, like some people said, and they did not do any vulgar language," she said.
Carolyn was one of two parents who met privately with Roberts after the protest.
"These kids have fought so hard to get where they are ... they've worked so hard to create the unity and brotherhood that they have. There was no due process," she said.
The premature playoff exit has, rather unsurprisingly, been a total nightmare for Perry Hall players. Despite a large student rally staged on Thursday after a rapid Facebook organizational effort, there appears to be little prospect for the team to be reinstated for the regional semifinals on Friday.
"I believe you should fight for what you care about, and I care about my friends," Matt Cavey, the Perry Hall student who organized the Thursday rally, told Prep Rally. "As soon as my friends on the soccer team told me that their game was to be forfeited simply because of a dance, I immediately knew I had to fight to get this decision overruled. We fought, protested and talked to Principal Roberts and that's all that matters, that we tried our best and that's all I ever asked of anyone.
"I am the one who helped get everyone together to protest this ludicrous decision in an attempt to overrule it, and were it not for everyone who came to the protest then none of this would have went the way it did, and no change would even have been considered, which most likely would have just led to [Perry Hall boys soccer coach Pete Eibner] getting fired."
"You're excited and you just want to express it," sophomore soccer player Justin Ornelas told ABC 2. "And you know, the Ravens have done it. It's Maryland -- why not celebrate it more than what Ray Rice and Terrell Suggs does."
The answer, of course, is that Terrell Suggs and Ray Rice don't get suspended when they perform "The Bernie." In fact, they don't even get penalized.
"It was heartbreaking," Perry Hall senior Ethan Muller told ABC 2. "We all just put our heads down and just cried. It was terrible to go out like that."
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- Perry Hall