By Hunter Hines
Christian Action League
September 19, 2019
NEW LONDON – Just before a Friday night football game on August 30th, North Stanly High School cheerleaders posed before a banner that read, “Trump 2020 ‘Make America Great Again.’” The incident drew complaints from some members of the community, and now the cheerleaders have been placed on probation for the remainder of the season by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA).
It was “American Night” at the football game, and students were encouraged to wear red, white, and blue to show their patriotism. Apparently, however, for some people in Stanly County, it’s not patriotic or even American to show support for the current President, Donald Trump.
Many members of the community are outraged that the cheerleaders have been placed on probation and argue that a lop-sided political bias is being demonstrated.
Charges of political bias on the part of the NCHSAA appear to be true.
According to various news outlets, NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker said, “One of the rules we have is that every contest should be conducted in a wholesome, athletic environment. We take that to mean that it’s an environment where good sportsmanship is shown, where people feel safe…that respect for all people participating is being shown.”
Although the association clarified that probation is not synonymous with punishment, it does serve “as a notice of behavior or action that is against NCHSAA Handbook Policy or contrary to expectations of sportsmanship and proper behavior. Should probationary infractions persist at a member school or within a team at a member school, additional sanctions such as fines or suspensions could be implemented,” added Tucker.
The Christian Action Leagues has since learned that Tucker and the NCHSAA were singing a very different tune during the height of protests sparked by San Francisco 49ers star quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. Before football games, Kaepernick, in objection to police brutality in the United States, would kneel rather than stand during the National Anthem. Consequentially, there were instances of numerous high school athletes across North Carolina who also kneeled when the National Anthem played. In Jacksonville, a referee chose to kneel.
At that time, Statesville.com reported that Commissioner Que Tucker responded by saying she was aware that some players, coaches, and officials were exercising certain rights granted by the First Amendment.
Tucker said: “The NCHSAA staff is very proud of our nation’s military and those individuals in many uniforms who serve – or have served – under America’s colors. We also know that certain acts are protected by the Constitution of our nation; therefore, we must respect such rights of individuals.”
When a referee took a knee just before the Southwest-Croatan High School football game, Tucker told the Jacksonville Daily News:
“Basically the NCHSAA believes in the Constitution of the United States and understands certain rights the Constitution protects. Probably one of those rights is for the individual to kneel. It does not diminish the NCHSAA is proud of and is grateful for those men and women who serve our country in uniform. We understand those who served previously and continue to do so to preserve the freedoms the Constitution affords us.”
So, according to Tucker, players, coaches, and even a referee on the job may kneel in a political protest, before the game, at the hearing of the National Anthem, and their Constitutional First Amendment rights of free speech are protected. But cheerleaders wearing their uniforms and displaying a banner supporting the President of the United States before the game is deserving of probation.
The incident has created national attention throughout the media.
Fox News’ Todd Starnes said that the response by the NCHSAA is another symptom of “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”
“What a load of Grade A politically correct fertilizer,” said Starnes.
North Carolina Congressman Richard Hudson sent a letter to Tucker stating his disagreement with the penalty levied on the cheerleaders and admonished:
“As leaders, we should be encouraging America’s youth to participate in our Democracy and political process – not punishing and silencing them. These North Stanly students respectfully displayed a sign and took a picture. They did not cause a scene, participate in a protest, or break any school code of conduct…At the end of the day, these students have a First Amendment right to free speech, and the NCHSAA should immediately reconsider this unfair punishment. I ask this not only as the federal representative of Stanly County but also as a proud graduate of North Carolina public schools and a former NCHSAA athlete.”
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said that it isn’t unusual for the First Amendment rights of students to be infringed upon in the public schools these days. What is surprising, added Creech, is for students, parents, and other concerned citizens to vigorously assert their rights when they’ve been violated.
“Our Constitutional rights are like anything else,” said Creech, “if you don’t use them, you’ll ultimately lose them. I think the cheerleaders and the parents should seek out the help of a law firm that specializes in First Amendment rights. There are plenty of conservative firms like this available that would be willing to do the work pro-bono. What the NCHSAA is doing is unconstitutional.”
Creech continued: “This is not a religious liberty issue, something that’s always on the radar of the Christian Action League, but this is about free speech. In various rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court, the High Court made it clear that students do not throw off their First Amendment rights when walking through the school-house door. They are free to express their religious views and engage in religious activities in school as long as what they say and do is student-initiated. The same is true for political speech. Their right to political expression should not be infringed upon, neither may people legitimately assume such expressions are endorsed by the school when they are solely student-initiated. That’s what happened at North Stanly High, and the students were well within their inalienable rights.”
The Stanly News and Press reported on Thursday that Stanly County Schools has now banned all banners and signs not associated with schools and Stanly County School at school events.