A high school basketball team is calling for peace after fans at a rival game held a flag that read, “Trump 2020. Keep America Great.”
Michael Walker, who coaches basketball at Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, Facebooked a photograph taken at a Tuesday game between his players and those at Jordan High School. Several kids sat courtside with a blue banner folded over their knees supporting the reelection of President Trump.
“I coach a predominantly black inner-city high school team,” wrote Walker on Wednesday. “We go out to a rural area in Jordan, MN and this is there. Please explain how and why this is appropriate at a high school basketball game?”
According to the Star-Tribune, parent Bridget Kahn wrote under Walker’s Facebook post that the flag was hers and she lent it to her son. The boy and his friends “left with them wrapped around them like capes. I didn’t see anything wrong with that.”
Kahn reportedly said the kids wore “a bunch of red, white and blue, supporting their president. They don’t have a racist bone in their body.” She also mentioned that the Roosevelt team had stayed in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem.
The Star-Tribune quoted parent Jeanna Orris as saying, “I have no issues with a Trump flag at our game last night in regards to racism. It could be seen as ‘It’s actually pretty cool [young people] are paying attention to things going on in our country.’”
Orris reportedly said, “They were not trying to be offensive. Our little town is the least racist … I just don’t understand how this got turned into a race thing.”
Former school coach Crystal Flint said, according to the Star-Tribune, “You got freedom of speech, but would that remotely be appropriate? No, it would not.”
Flint asked if the flag was used specifically because the majority of Roosevelt’s players are black. “Why is politics being represented at sports?” she is quoted as saying. “Is there an intimidation factor? … I think it’s divisive in this racial climate that we have.”
Roosevelt spokesperson Dirk Tedmon told the Star-Tribune that the district doesn’t allow “political advertising” at games.
On Friday, players on the Roosevelt basketball team told Yahoo Lifestyle, “We’re really surprised by all the attention this is getting, but appreciate that Coach Walker started the discussion. The issue is what our President represents to many people of color, whether that’s what the Jordan fans knew or not. Looking back, we now wish we had the opportunity to talk to the Jordan players about what that banner represents to us here at Roosevelt. Then we could also tell them why we stay in the locker room during the National Anthem. The protest of the anthem and the lack of handshaking (we don’t do that in our conference) in pregame were not meant to be disrespectful. We get that that’s hard for some people to understand. The only way we can help each other understand is through dialogue. This all comes down to people trying to see one another’s point of view—and we’re coming from a place that recognizes a history of oppression for people of color in the U.S. As young people, it’s our job to bridge the divide and make the world a better place, a safer place, for every person, no matter their color or culture. We mean no harm toward Jordan or its fans, and we hope they will stand with us for change.”
Included with the player’s statement was a note from Ed Graff, superintendent of Roosevelt’s district Minneapolis Public Schools: “As a school district, we support positive action that creates space for conversation and understanding among people with diverse viewpoints. Part of our role is to help our students learn how to actively engage in civic conversations—that is what education is all about. Like we’ve said before, one of MPS’s priorities is giving students skills for critical thinking, building positive relationships, hearing diverse views and problem-solving in challenging situations. MPS hopes and expects that all people — especially our students and staff—find ways to collaborate and approach one another in a respectful manner, even when they disagree. These are the conversations we need to be having, and that have already begun with the Jordan school district.”
Jordan Public Schools superintendent Matt Helgerson tells Yahoo Lifestyle in part, “We regret that Roosevelt players and their coaching staff, fans and community were made to feel uncomfortable and that the opinions of some have become a divisive topic of conversation. Instead of focusing on what divides us, I would like to focus on what we agree upon. I agree with the Roosevelt basketball team’s statement that it is all of our jobs to bridge the divide and make the world a better place, no matter our differences. I agree with Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Ed Graff that as a school district, we support positive action that creates space for conversation and understanding among people of diverse viewpoints. Our school is not reflective of one voice but that of over 1,800 voices representing a student population of diverse backgrounds and political opinions that we also must respect.”
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