Posts Tagged ‘American Civil LIberties Union’

When Society and Sports Collide

January 19, 2015

In the wake of the social unrest we’ve seen in Ferguson, Cleveland and New York, athletes have used their national platforms to express their opinions on the incidents—see the St. Louis Rams’ players coming out for team introductions with the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” pose.

This expression has reached basketball, where professional and college players alike have worn “I Can’t Breathe” shirts, signifying the last words of Eric Gardner, the New York man who died after an officer put him in a chokehold.I cant breathe

And now, a high school basketball tournament in Northern California has been included in the conversation, after a school scheduled to play in the tournament was disinvited because of concerns its players would wear “I Can’t Breathe” shirts during warm-ups.

The athletic director at Mendocino High School was told that neither the boy’s nor the girl’s team would be allowed to participate in the tournament if they wore the shirts.

The boys were reinstated after all but one player agreed not to wear the shirt. Too few girl players agreed to not wear the shirts and were not allowed to play.

No surprise here: The parent of the one boy who decided to sit out the holiday tournament has taken the issue to the American Civil Liberties Union. In a written statement, the principal of the host school, Fort Bragg High School, said the school administrators respected the Mendocino teams “for paying attention to what is going on in the world around them” and that the shirts were being banned as a security precaution.

This isn’t the first, and won’t be the last, time where the world of amateur and youth sports will collide with First Amendment rights and the desire of young athletes to express themselves.

Have you run into similar issues with your events or teams? If so how did you handle the issue and what advice would you have other rights holders or event planners on how to deal with the issue? Give us your thoughts on our NASC Facebook page. We always welcome comments on best practices.