Two football players in Ohio have been suspended indefinitely and later reinstated by their high school after carrying two flags onto the field that honored fallen first responders. Brady Williams carried a Thin Blue Line American flag while Jarad Bentley carried a Thin Red Line American flag on Friday, the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. The issue arose due to school administrators telling them to leave the flags in the locker room.
According to Local 12, Williams was not trying to make a political statement. His father is a police officer, and he said that he wanted to carry the flag to honor officers that sacrificed themselves to protect others. "No. Not at all," he told the news station. "I was just doing it to honor the people that lost their lives 19 years ago." Williams also said that he doesn't care what the consequences are for his actions on the field. "So long as my message gets across, I'm happy," he said.
Bentley expressed a similar sentiment when explaining his reasoning to Local 12. "I was all for it," he said. "Because my dad is a firefighter, and if it had been him killed on 9/11, I would have wanted someone to do it for him."
Both football players said that they heard from school administrators on Monday afternoon. They did indeed receive an indefinite suspension from the football team. However, the school reversed its decision the following day. Local 12 reports that both players were reinstated on Tuesday and will now face discipline from the coaching staff for their "insubordination."
Speaking with the outlet, superintendent Gregory Power said that he saw the flags as a political statement. He didn't want to "set a precedent" for other students. He also explained that the school couldn't let students decide to do something after being told not to.
"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," Power explained. Following the decision to suspend the two players, Power said that he received several hate emails and voicemails from those that didn't agree with his viewpoint.
Following an investigation, the Little Miami Board of Education announced that there "was no political motivation" behind the two players carrying the flags onto the field. However, a statement from the board reiterated that the only flags to come through the tunnel in the future are the American flag and the school's spirit flag.