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A North Carolina high school cheerleading team has reportedly been placed on probation for waving a pro-Trump banner during a game, according to the Charlotte Observer.
The North Stanly High School cheerleading team in New London, North Carolina, was placed on probation by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA), according to a Monday announcement.
While the “terms of the probation” have not yet been set, authorities say the probation can last up to a year.
“The focus of Friday night football games should be on our students – the players, cheerleaders, band members – the focus should not be on politics,” officials said. “For this reason, we are hopeful the situation will resolve, and our student athletes can have a successful fall season.”
A photo circulating on social media in late August showed the cheerleaders holding a banner reading “TRUMP 2020 Make America Great Again.”
The school district said while it supports students’ right to free speech, it was the political nature of the banner that isn’t encouraged.
“Stanly County Schools respects the rights of its students, staff, and visitors to express their opinions in a respectful manner on their own time, however, Stanly County Board of Education policy prohibits the display or distribution of political advertisements on campus or at school events,” says a statement on the district’s website.
“Further, Stanly County Schools never makes political campaign endorsements,” the statement says. “These policies ensure that all students, staff, and visitors are able to attend school events in an environment that promotes students and not a particular political viewpoint.”
Many shared a similar sentiment on social media.
“Why in the world would the school board allow this to happen. I am sad and very disappointed with NS. This is a High School football game not a political rally. Shame on them,” one user wrote.
“What was the purpose??” wrote another. “This should not have been allowed & Not because it’s Trump(maybe),but because it’s a school sponsored event which could’ve caused discourse amongst the students and/or fans. Just silly.”
The NCHSAA’s decision is however facing backlash. Since the news of the probation was announced, people have rallied in support of the cheerleading team citing “free speech.”
“Please call the Commissioner…of the NCHSAA and let her know that the 1st amendment of these girls has been stripped by putting the cheerleaders on probation,” wrote one user on Sunday. “This is not a pro trump post, it is a free speech post.”
An event created in support of the girls has been scheduled for Friday. It has a little over a hundred people who say they’ll be attending.
“This event is about free speech and I want everybody to remember that,” Jeremy Onitreb, one of the organizers of the event, said in a video on Tuesday. “I don’t care if there’s somebody that brings a Biden flag out there and waves it…by all means I want everyone to understand that’s completely okay.”
Samira Sadeque is a New York-based journalist reporting on immigration, sexual violence, and mental health, and will sometimes write about memes and dinosaurs too. Her work also appears in Reuters, NPR, and NBC among other publications. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, and her work has been nominated for SAJA awards. Follow: @Samideque