Cornerback Brady Williams ran onto the field with a thin blue line flag while his teammate, linebacker Jarad Bentley, carried a thin red line flag, both in defiance of the school district’s instruction not to do so. Williams’s father is a sheriff’s deputy. Bentley’s is a firefighter.
The teens were briefly suspended from Little Miami High School football team for the affront, reports WKRC. The nonprofit Holiday for Heroes, however, has hailed the footballers as “patriots” and has since rewarded them both with scholarships.
Not only that, but the likes of Donald Trump Jr. also decided to weigh in on Twitter.
Bobbie Grice, president of the Little Miami Local Schools Board of Education, issued a statement on Facebook justifying the board’s decision to reprimand their students.
“The results show that there were no political motivations behind this display of support for first responders on 9/11,” Grice wrote, “but there were stances [sic] of insubordination.
“The only two flags that will come through the Little Miami football tunnel are the flag of the United States of America and the Little Miami spirit flag.”
To this, Holiday for Heroes responded in a press release: “Almost immediately, this was turned into something that it was not intended to be, a political statement. Brady and Jarad simply wanted to honor the lives of the first responders lost during the terrorist attacks of 2001.”
Praising the teens as “true patriots,” the nonprofit commended them for a gesture “far beyond their years.”
After news of Williams and Bentley’s suspensions circulated on social media, a Change.org petition was launched by local supporters to reverse the decision. The petition received 19,512 signatures, reported The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Soon, the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. took to Twitter to respond to the teens’ suspensions, garnering tens of thousands of likes, comments, and shares. He captioned:
“It’s outrageous that these students were punished for celebrating our amazing police officers. They showed real courage standing up for what they thought was right.
“Does anyone think @LM_Schools would have suspended them if they came out with BLM flags???”
The Little Miami Local Schools Board of Education reassessed their decision on Sept. 15, allowing the teens to resume their positions on the football team.
“Moving forward, Little Miami is returning the players to active status,” Grice stated, “and this matter will be addressed as an Athletic Department Code of Conduct issue, with any potential consequences to be handled by coaching staff.
“Little Miami Local Schools is saddened to see this story take such a negative turn. The district enjoys an outstanding relationship with our local police and fire agencies.”
Holiday for Heroes was formed in 2009 as a small-scale neighborhood initiative, collecting care packages to send to U.S. troops deployed overseas. As of 2020, the nonprofit awards scholarships to “deserving” high school seniors who have made sacrifices in their formative years by virtue of their parents’ service to the military, first response professions, or law enforcement.
“These men stood up for a cause they believe in,” the nonprofit stated on Facebook. “As they took the field with flags in hand it reminded us how we felt 19 years ago, heartbroken, yet strong and united.”
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