Players on a Florida high school football team will no longer be able to carry a pro-police flag on the field before games after their school banned the banner because of complaints that the symbol is “racist.”
A junior offensive lineman named Caelen Lavender started the ritual in honor of his late father, Jacksonville Beach police Cpl. Andy Lavender.
Lavender died unexpectedly in August 2019 after 29 years in law enforcement.
“It’s all about my son’s love for his dad and his memory,” Lorie Lavender told WJXT.
“He was one of a kind. And he is very much missed and loved.”
Andy Lavender was a well-liked member of the community and coached many of the players on the football team when they were in Pop Warner programs, so many students wanted to honor his memory, WJXT reported.
After the Fletcher Senators carried the flag onto the field at Friday night’s game, critics accused the team of being racist.
“Fletcher really out here being openly racist,” one social media post read, according to WJXT.
Another post read, “Thin blue flag shown at Fletcher High School game, a lot of students aren’t happy.”
Following the public outrage over the flag on social media, Fletcher High School Principal Dean Ledford decided to ban the flag from the football games.
“The flag, which is known as the Thin Blue Line flag, has different meaning for different people, and rather than representing the young man’s personal feelings, it was being interpreted as a political statement of the team and of the school,” he said in a statement this week, according to WJXT.
“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 students and his teammates.”
Ledford added that he is having a discussion with the students about how they can express their personal views in other ways.
Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police President Steve Zona said Ledford made the wrong decision.
Share and send an email to Principal Ledford and demand he change his position. Be professional and support Andy’s son….
“This is a prime example where it was as innocent as can be, there is no politics involved, no us versus them, simply to honor a great man and allow his kids in the football team to honor him, and they have taken those, hijacked it and called it racism,” Zona told WJXT.
“And now the son and these kids are suffering because of it.”
WJXT reported that Zona and Lorie Lavender were asking the audience at Friday’s game at Fletcher High to wear colors showing their support.
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