A Florida High School has reportedly banned their football team from waving a flag meant to memorialize a police officer after critics said the display is racist.
The Fletcher High School football team had been running onto the field with the pro-law enforcement sign since last year to honor one of the player’s late father, a former cop who died suddenly in August 2019 after 29 years on the job. However the display was stopped this week after complaints, News4Jax reported.
The school in the city of Neptune Beach allowed The Fletcher Senators to run onto the field with the flag for 11 games in the 2019 season and at last week’s game against Fleming Island but following online criticism accusing the team of being racist the principal nixed the practice over political concerns.
One social media comment after a game last week read, “Fletcher really out here being openly racist,” the report said. Another person wrote that “a lot of students aren’t happy” about the act. Lorie Lavender, whose son, Caelan, started the ritual told the station the pre-game flag-waving is not political or racist.
“It is all about my son’s love for his dad and his memory,” said Lorie Lavender
“[Jacksonville Beach Police Officer Andy Lavender] was a staple in the community loved by everybody, served with honor and integrity,” Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police President Steve Zona said Lavender deserves to be remembered.
Duval County Public Schools issued a statement from Fletcher High School Principal Dean Ledford, who felt the meaning of the ritual could be misconstrued by outsiders.
“In consultation with the coaches, I determined that the act of using this flag in this personal way, while in the context of the football game opening ceremony, could easily be construed as representing a political position of our school and not just the personal feelings of the student and his teammates,” he said in a statement.
Ledford said he’s working with the team on alternative ways for them to express their personal views.