CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - After security concerns forced Stanly County Schools to postpone Friday’s prep football game between China Grove’s Carson High School and North Stanly, the teams are rescheduled to play Saturday morning.
Friday’s game, scheduled to be played at North Stanly, was canceled ahead of a planned rally to support the North Stanly cheerleading team. The cheerleading team had been placed on probation over a pro-Trump photo by the N.C. High School Athletic Association.
Select community members, who feared the teens’ First Amendment rights were being infringed, had planned to wave a large flag with supporters before the game Friday.
North Stanly coach Scott Crisco told the Observer the teams would play Saturday morning at 11 a.m. at North Stanly. He said he didn’t have any concerns about safety if the game was played Friday or Saturday.
“It was very disappointing for us and our players to not play (Friday),” Crisco said. “We’ll bounce back and play (Saturday) and do what we’re supposed to do and play football.”
Crisco said he just wanted the whole issue to be over.
“It’s always disappointing not playing on Friday night,” he said. “Friday night is special. But it’s not the first time we have played on Saturday and we’ll adjust.”
Asked about how his players felt about Friday’s game not being played, Crisco said, “they just want to play football. That’s all they want.”
The controversy began after a picture was taken of several members of the North Stanly cheerleading team in uniform with other students holding a Trump 2020 sign. The sign read “Make America Great Again” and it was later posted on social media. The probation followed.
Earlier in the week, 8th District Congressman Richard Hudson (R), who represents Stanly County, sent a letter to the NCHSAA questioning the ruling for probation.
NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker told McClatchy news group in a statement Monday that probation — which can last up to one year — is not a form of punishment.
“It serves as a notice of behavior or action that is against NCHSAA Handbook Policy or contrary to expectations of sportsmanship and proper behavior,” she said in a written statement. “While the NCHSAA does not have a specific policy prohibiting the display of political advertisements at athletic events, the behavior was contrary to the NCHSAA’s ‘Philosophy of Cheerleading.’ ”
The philosophy suggests that cheerleaders represent the school and fans in a positive manner while showing support for the team.
Tucker’s statement also said: “It is our understanding that Stanly County Schools has a policy against political advertisements on campus or at school events. It is also our understanding that Stanly County Schools does not make political endorsements.”
As Friday’s planned rally approached, Stanly County Schools released a statement saying it had been notified of additional information that could compromise safety measures our schools have in place for sporting events.”
“There was no threat,” Jeremy Onitreb, one of the rally organizers, told McClatchy news group in response. “Nobody’s coming up there to hurt the kids. It’s not what this was about.”
When asked if the rally would still take place, Onitreb didn’t hesitate.
“You’re damn right it is,” he said.