Little Miami football players suspended for carrying Thin Blue Line and Thin Red Line flags at game reinstated
The players were suspended after they reportedly did not heed a 'warning' to leave their flags -- meant to represent firefighters and police officers who lost their lives on a tragic day 19 years ago -- off the field
A couple of high school football players in Ohio who were reprimanded for showing their support for first responders on 9/11 have now been reinstated to their team. The boys were suspended after they reportedly did not heed a "warning" to leave their Thin Blue Line and Thin Red Line flags -- meant to represent firefighters and police officers who lost their lives on a tragic day 19 years ago -- off the field. On September 11, some players of the Little Miami High School football team carried with them a Star-Spangled Banner, a Thin Blue Line, and Thin Red Line flags as they took the field, Fox 11 reported.
“Were you trying to make some kind of a political statement here?” WKRC asked senior cornerback Brady Williams.
“No,” he replied. “Not at all. I was just doing it to honor the people that lost their lives 19 years ago."
Williams, whose father is a police officer, was holding the Thin Blue Line flag as he rushed onto the field Friday. He said he simply wanted to honor all law enforcement officers who lost their lives while trying to rescue others on 9/11. Meanwhile, Jarad Bentley carried the Thin Red Line flag to honor firefighters who died on the fateful day. “I was all for it,” he told WKRC. “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 report, the boys had requested permission for the flags prior to the game. However, school officials denied them and warned that there would be consequences if they chose to defy the order. “Listen,” Williams said. “I don’t care what my consequences are. As long as my message gets across, I’ll be happy.”
Both Williams and Bentley received an indefinite suspension from the school's athletic director on Monday afternoon. “We can’t have students who decide to do something anyway after they’ve been told that they shouldn’t be doing it,” superintendent Gregory Power told WKRC.
According to Power, the flags are symbols of a political point of view he "didn't want to set a precedent." “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 [one that] many other families may not agree with from a political perspective,” Power claimed. But after the story went viral on Facebook, Power said he realized there were a lot of people who didn't agree with him and that he was inundated with hate emails and voicemails. “I realize that this was more than just a football team; these guys are now my brothers," Williams told WKRC.
Over 19,000 people signed a Change.org petition Tuesday calling for the school to unsuspend the players. A rally was also organized in support of players prior to the school's football game slated for September 25. “We plan to meet at a nearby, central location, with our flags flying to show support for these gentlemen,” according to the Facebook event. “If they are not allowed to honor the country’s heroes, we will do it for them.”
In response to the intense backlash, the Little Miami administration unsuspended both Williams and Bentley and reinstated their positions on the team. The Change.org campaign now reads, "Victory! This petition made change with 19,512 supporters!"