Little Miami High School in Ohio has indefinitely suspended two of its football players from the team after they defied a school instruction not to fly pro-police and pro-firefighter flags at a school football game on September 11.
Brady Williams and Jarad Bentley carried a Thin Blue Line flag and a Thin Red Line flag, along with an American flag, onto the field before the start of the game, which fell on the 19th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
The Thin Blue Line flag is a symbol of support for police officers, while the Thin Red Line flag is a symbol of support for firefighters. Williams's father is a police officer, while Bentley's father is a firefighter, a local news station reported. The boys had previously requested the school's permission to fly the two advocacy flags, but were denied. The boys also had been warned they would face consequences if they did fly the flags, according to WKRC-TV.
That did not stop the boys.
"I don't care what my consequences are," Williams said. "As long as my message gets across, I'll be happy."
The school district's superintendent said the boys were told not to fly the flags.
"We did not want to place ourselves in a circumstance where another family might want a different flag to come out of the tunnel," said Superintendent Greg Power, "one that maybe many other families may not agree with from a political perspective."
Williams said he did "not at all" carry the flag to make a political statement.
"I was just doing it to honor the people that lost their lives 19 years ago," he said.
The community is planning an event called "We Stand with Brady and Jarad" for September 25. On Facebook, 1,500 people have indicated they will attend.
The school district insists the students broke the rules.
" ... Administrators must act when students break the rules.
The Patriot Night program to memorialize the victims of 9/11 was already part of our pre-game ceremonies on Friday and the American flag is the first thing through the tunnel every Friday night," the school said in a statement to local news outlet Fox19. "Little Miami enjoys an outstanding relationship with local first police and fire agencies and a Little Miami school resource officer is also a high school football coach. Little Miami always has – and always will – support our first responders, our veterans, and all who sacrifice to maintain our freedoms."