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High School Football Players Suspended For Flying First Responder Flags On 9/11, School Reverses After Backlash

Morrow, OH – The teenage son of an Ohio law enforcement officer was suspended from his football team after he chose to carry a Thin Blue Line flag onto the football field on the 19th anniversary of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks, even though the school told him not to.

As the team took to the field on Friday night, Miami High School seniors Brady Williams and Jarad Bentley each carried a flag in honor of their first-responder fathers, WKRC reported.

Williams carried the Thin Blue Line Flag, while Bentley, the son of a firefighter, ran with the Thin Red Line flag.

“I was all for it, because my dad is a firefighter,” Bentley told WKRC. “If it had been him killed on 9/11, I would have wanted someone to do it for him.”

Williams said he wanted to honor all of the law enforcement officers who died while trying to save others.

He said there was no political motivation behind their gesture.

“Not at all,” he told WKRC. “I was just doing it to honor the people that lost their lives 19 years ago.”

The teens had asked the school for permission to carry the flags prior to Friday night’s game, but their request was denied.

They were also warned that there would be consequences if they opted to follow through with their plan anyway, WKRC reported.

“Listen – I don’t care what my consequences are,” Williams told the news outlet. “As long as my message gets across, I’ll be happy.”

In addition to honoring Williams’ and Bentley’s fathers, the team also sought to recognize their coach – who is a law enforcement officer – as well as a teammate who lost a family member during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, William’s mother, Kellie Gantzer Williams, said in a Facebook post on Friday.

On Monday, the school’s athletic director told Bentley and Williams that they had been suspended from the football team indefinitely.

“We can’t have students who decide to do something anyway after they’ve been told that they shouldn’t be doing it,” Little Miami School Superintendent Gregory Powers told WKRC.

Powers alleged that the flags were political symbols, and that he didn’t want to have to deal with requests from other “political perspectives.”

“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 may be [one that] many other families may not agree with from a political perspective,” the superintendent said.

Powers said he has received numerous messages and phone calls from people who disagree with how he handled the situation, WKRC reported.

An online petition denouncing the teens’ suspension from the team garnered over 19,500 signatures.

President Donald Trump even tweeted about the incident on Tuesday.

“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,” the President wrote.

“Does anyone think @LM_Schools would have suspended them if they came out with BLM flags??? #BlueLivesMatter,” he added.

The district said it “enjoys an outstanding relationship” with local fire and police departments, according to WXIX.

“Little Miami Local Schools is saddened to see this story take such a negative turn,” the school district said in a statement to The Plain Dealer. “While we understand these students’ desire show their support of our first responders, they did not obtain permission from district officials. Administrators must act when students break the rules.”

The school district has since reversed the initial decision to suspend Bentley and Williams from the football team, Little Miami Board of Education President Bobbie Grice said on Tuesday, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.

It will be up to the teens’ coaches to determine what – if any – discipline will be handed down.

“The results show that there were no political motivations behind this display of support for first responders on 9/11, but there were stances of insubordination,” Grice said. “Moving forward, Little Miami is returning the players to active status and this matter will be addressed as an Athletic Department Code of Conduct issue, with any potential consequences to be handled by coaching staff.”

Williams’ mother said in another Facebook post on Friday that she is proud of her son and the entire Little Miami High School football team.

“Sometimes doing the right thing means you stand alone. But SOMETIMES your team and your community rally behind you so you’re NOT alone,” Kellie wrote. “Today I am unbelievably thankful to the young men who make up this team. Going against repeated requests by administration, they stood tall, stood their ground and honored the lives lost 19 years ago. I have never been more proud. WE WILL NEVER FORGET.”

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Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Avatar Written by Holly Matkin

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