Two Ohio high school football players were suspended from their team for carrying “Thin Red Line” and “Thin Blue Line” flags onto the field honoring first responders before a game on Sept. 11.
“I don’t care what my consequences are. So long as my message gets across, I’ll be happy,” senior cornerback Brady Williams, who was suspended from the team, told Local 12 News.
Williams said that he was only trying to honor the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, not make a political statement.
“I was just doing it to honor the people that lost their lives 19 years ago,” said Williams, whose father is a police officer.
While Williams carried the “Thin Blue Line” flag to honor police officers, teammate Jarad Bentley took the field with the “Thin Red Line” flag to honor firefighters.
“I was all for it because my dad is a firefighter,” Bentley said. “And if it had been him killed on 9/11, I would have wanted someone to do it for him.”
On Monday, the two players found out from their athletic director that they were suspended indefinitely from the football team. School officials said the players were denied permission to carry the flags before the game.
“We can’t have students who decide to do something anyway after they’ve been told that they shouldn’t be doing it,” Little Miami Schools Superintendent Gregory Power said.
Power also said that he objected to the flags because he saw them as political.
“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 maybe many other families may not agree with from a political perspective,” Power said.
On Tuesday, Little Miami school board President Bobbie Grice said the players were no longer suspended.
“The results show that there were no political motivations behind this display of support for first responders on 9/11, but there were stances of insubordination,” Grice said. “Moving forward, Little Miami is returning the players to active status, and this matter will be addressed as an Athletic Department Code of Conduct issue, with any potential consequences to be handled by coaching staff.”
The suspensions garnered national outrage, with former Republican senator and Conservative Partnership Institute Chairman Jim DeMint tweeting out a message of support for the players.
“These boys suspended for honoring our brave police and firefighters on 9/11. Someone raised them right,” DeMint said. “We need more standing up for what’s right & noble in our country. Shame on school officials.”
Williams said he has also received a lot of support from his teammates.
“I realize that this was more than just a football team. These guys are now my brothers,” he said.