A football player at a high school in California has been forced to stop carrying a pro-police flag as the team rallied onto the field, as critics said it made them feel “unwelcome and uncomfortable.”
Some others compared the “thin blue flag” to a Confederate one, forcing school administrators at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita to tell the player to ditch the controversial symbol.
The decision comes after William S. Hart Union High School District Superintendent Mike Kuhlman sent out a letter explaining the flag’s intention is to show support for law enforcement officers, KTLA reported.
However, Kuhlman recognized the flag also offends some people.
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“While many embrace the symbol as simply a celebration of law enforcement, others have shared their feeling that the symbol has sometimes been co-opted by intolerant individuals with an agenda to divide and exclude,” Kuhlman wrote, per the report. “I’ve personally spoken with some individuals who shared their feeling that the symbol makes them feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.”
Centurions head coach Jason Bornn ultimately decided to discontinue displaying the flag, following conversations with the school’s principal, according to KTLA.
“Given that some individuals have expressed concern that they interpret the Thin Blue Line flag to be divisive, it occurred to (the coach) that it’s possible that some players on the team might not be entirely enthusiastic about a symbol that is being used to represent the entire team,” Kuhlman said.
He added: “In deference to his commitment to inclusivity, kindness and respect (just loving people), and because the team never voted as a unit to carry this banner, Coach decided to discontinue this practice.”
The school’s principal also reiterated that the decision was not to signal a shift in support for law enforcement — especially after officers assisted the school during a mass shooting in 2019.
“It is important to support law enforcement. Those of us with first-hand memories of November 2019 will never forget their heroic response and can be nothing but thankful for their selfless acts of service,” Kulman wrote.
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Lexi Hawk, the mother of a 16-year-old student who carried the flag onto the field, told KHTS that her family was surprised by the decision and said it was made without the administrators discussing it with the players.
“There was not even an offer to open discussion. You’re not going to agree with everyone or agree with everyone’s beliefs, that’s just now how it works, but there should have been an opportunity to open an adult conversation,” Hawk said, KHTS reported.
The decision also comes as the team enters its seventh week, which further confused the family, they said. But they are hoping the controversy does not impact the team’s play.
“I want everyone to keep the subject of focus on the boys,” Hawk said. “We can respect law enforcement and honor them, but the priority is the boys, and them having the best game and the best experience possible.”
The Saugus Centurions (5-2) defeated Hart High School Indians (1-6) on Friday night, Oct. 7, 2022.
During the game, fans filled the stands with Thin Blue Line flags to show support for the solidarity with the players and support for law enforcement, according to FOX LA.
The Centurions play next on Oct. 14.