If famous basketball players like LeBron James and the Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose and the Sacramento King's Eric Moreland (above)can wear t-shirts in protest of police brutality, why can't a high school basketball team?
That's the question surrounding the boys and girls basketball teams from Mendecino High School in Northern California. The Guardian reports that both teams were disinvited from a three-day basketball tournament at nearby Fort Braggs High School because officials believed players would wear "I Can't Breathe" t-shirts during warm-ups. The t-shirts have risen in popularity in recent weeks – especially among black athletes – after a grand jury failed to indict the officer who used a chokehold on Eric Garner. "I can't breathe" were Garner's last words.
High school officials believe the t-shirts pose a security concern. Although Mendecino Principal Rebecca Walker respects her students "for paying attention to what is going on in the world around them," she agrees with the decision.
In a statement released last Friday, she wrote:
"To protect the safety and well-being of all tournament participants it is necessary to ensure that all political statements and or protests are kept away from this tournament. We are a small school district that simply does not have the resources to ensure the safety and well-being of our staff, students and guests at the tournament should someone get upset and choose to act out.”
After all but one player agreed to not wear the t-shirts, the boys team's invitation was reinstated. However, the qualifying majority of the girls team refused to accept the conditions and their disinvite is still in place.
As it stands, this would not be the first incident in which the Mendecino teams wore the t-shirts. The teams wore the shirts before a different game against the Fort Braggs team on December 16, according to the girls coach, Caedyn Feehan. The girls team also wore them to two other tournaments without complaint.
The Fort Braggs tournament is set to begin Monday. Despite the national attention, it remains to be seen whether Fort Braggs and Mendecino will stick by their decision.
Do you think the players should be allowed to wear the shirts? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments.