MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA — Roosevelt High School has a predominantly black student body, and their basketball team has been making a habit of staying inside the locker room during the National Anthem at previous games. So when they were the visiting team at another high school this Tuesday night, the home students thought it’d be a good idea to try and intimidate them with a “Trump 2020” flag.
In a post to Facebook this Wednesday, RHS coach Michael Zeke Walker shared a photo of the students with the flag unfurled while sitting court side.
“I coach a predominantly black inner city high school team,” Walker wrote. “We go out to a rural area in Jordan, MN and this is there. Please explain how and why this is appropriate at a high school basketball game?”
I coach a predominantly black inner city high school team. We go out to a rural area in Jordan, MN and this is there….
In the photo, other students surrounding the flag can be seen wearing clothes emblazoned with American flag patterns.
Walker, who is black, also is the director of his district’s Office of Black Male Student Achievement, the Star Tribune reports.
The photo got a decent amount of attention on social media (racking up thousands of likes and shares with over 5,000 comments), prompting district Superintendent Matt Helgerson to address the growing outrage.
In a statement that same afternoon, Helgerson said that regrets the opposing team “and their coaching staff, fans and community were made to feel uncomfortable, as it is always our intent to graciously host our opponents.”
Helgerson said the matter was being investigated and district officials would issue a response.
Speaking to the Star Tribune, a parent of one of the students said she didn’t see anything wrong with the flag’s display.
Bridget Kahn commented on the Roosevelt coach’s Facebook posting [and] wrote that the flag belonged to her and was used by students as part of a long-planned USA blackout theme night.
Kahn told the Star Tribune later that her son and others took two of the flags with them to the game and “left with them wrapped around them like capes. I didn’t see anything wrong with that.”
She said this was nothing more than young people wearing “a bunch of red, white and blue, supporting their president. They don’t have a racist bone in their body.”
The parent also mentioned that visiting team did their usual skipping of the National Anthem before the game. A spokesman for Minneapolis schools said that the home team was anticipating RHS to skip the Anthem.
Superintendent Helgerson said that he’s in the process of finding out if the flag display violated any school policy.
“This is a new one for me,” he said.
But according to Minneapolis schools spokesman Dirk Tedmon, “political advertising” is not allowed at school games.
UPDATE: The high school basketball team whose fans displayed the Trump flag has withdrawn from a tournament that was scheduled for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“After discussion with the MLK Showcase event coordinator, a decision has been made to pull out,” superintendent Helgerson said according to the Star Tribune. “Given recent events, we believe the participation of our team in the event will detract from the hard work of the athletes and the upbeat focus of the MLK Showcase … We will continue to work with the Minneapolis School District … to move forward in a positive direction.”
[Deadspin] Featured image via Michael Zeke Walker/Facebook
[This post has been updated]