Ohio High School Football Players Suspended for Carrying Pro-Police Flag Onto the Field

September 15, 2020 Updated: September 15, 2020

Two high school football players in Morrow, Ohio, have been briefly suspended from their team for carrying “Thin Blue Line” and “Thin Red Line” flags onto the field in support of fallen police officers and firefighters.

Little Miami High School football players Brady Williams and Jarad Bentley, both seniors, led their team onto the field while carrying the flags before their game on Friday, which marked the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The two were denied permission from school officials to run with the flags but did it anyway, according to a statement obtained by The Cincinnati Enquirer from Little Miami Board of Education.

Williams and Bentley, who are reportedly sons of a policeman and a fireman, respectively, were suspended from the team on Monday. They told Cincinnati’s Local 12 that the move was not political; it was meant to honor the first responders who risked their own lives to save others.

“I was all for it,” Bentley said. “Because my dad is a firefighter, and if it had been him killed on 9/11, I would have wanted someone to do it for him.”

After Little Miami initially suspended the two, an online petition calling for the teens’ reinstatement received 19,000 supporting signatures in less than a day.

“Jared and Brady took a Thin blue and red striped flag out on the field after they were told not to,” the petition reads. “The school suspended them indefinitely for supporting their fallen hero’s [sic]. Sign this petition to help unsuspend the 2 student-athletes who have lost their senior season.”

Little Miami school board president Bobbie Grice told the Cincinnati Enquirer that the players have returned to active status after an investigation found no political motivations behind the display of the two flags.

“Little Miami is saddened to see this story take such a negative turn,” the school board’s statement reads. “While we understand these students’ desire [to] show their support of first responders, they did not obtain permission from district officials. Administrators must act when students break the rules.”

Grice noted that the Friday game has already included a special pre-game program to memorialize the victims of the 9/11 attacks, with the American flag prominently displayed. He also said the school board “enjoys an outstanding relationship” with local police and fire departments, adding that one of the football team’s coaches also serves as a campus police officer.

“Little Miami always has—and always will—support our first responders, our veterans, and all who sacrifice to maintain our freedoms,” he said.