Public backlash forced an Ohio high school to reverse its suspension of two football players after they carried pro-law enforcement flags honoring fallen police officers and firefighters during a recent game.
Little Miami High School, in Morrow, chose to suspend Brady Williams and Jarad Bentley after the students carried a Thin Blue Line flag and a Thin Red Line flag onto the football field before a Sept. 11 football game.
Williams, a senior cornerback whose father is a police officer, said he and Bentley were not trying to make a political statement.
Bentley, whose father is a firefighter, agreed and said they were both just trying to honor their parents and the first responders who lost their lives during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“I was just doing it to honor the people that lost their lives 19 years ago,” Williams told WKRC-TV.
“I was all for it,” Bentley added. “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.”
According to the school’s policy, Williams and Bentley were required to ask administrators’ permission to carry the flags onto the field.
They did that, but were denied and warned that if they defied the order there would be consequences.
Both players received an indefinite suspension after the game, although they have since been reinstated after an online petition gathered some 19,000 signatories.
“Listen,” Williams said. “I don’t care what my consequences are. So long as my message gets across, I’ll be happy.”
When asked why the school took such drastic action, Superintendent Gregory Power argued that students must follow the school’s guidelines.
He accused Bentley and Williams of politicizing the game.
“We can’t have students who decide to do something anyway after they’ve been told that they shouldn’t be doing it,” Power said.
“We did not want to place ourselves in a circumstance where another family might want a different flag to come out of the tunnel, one that maybe many other families may not agree with from a political perspective.”
The school’s community, however, was not pleased with Power’s decision and demanded that the school reinstate Williams and Bentley.
A group of community members gathered outside of the school on Tuesday waving Thin Red Line, Thin Blue Line and American flags.
Later that day, the school announced that the boys will remain on the team, although they might still be disciplined by their coach for insubordination, according to a follow-up report by WKRC-TV.
“I’m sure the community is standing behind [the boys], and thanks to those two boys, patriotism is alive and well,” said Perry Denehy, who had assembled the group outside the school, said.