State athletic association accused of suppressing students’ First Amendment rights
Cheerleaders at a high school in North Carolina were put on probation after they posed for pictures with a banner reading “Trump 2020.”
Administrators at North Stanly High School in New London chastised the squad’s decision to pose with the banner, which was displayed during a home football game last month, saying audiences could perceive it as a school-approved political endorsement.
“Because the cheerleaders were in uniform and were acting as representatives of the school, the display of the sign could be perceived as the school or school system endorsing a political campaign,” the Stanly County Board of Education wrote in a statement, adding that district policy prohibits the display of political ads.
The school, however, did not move to punish the girls; that was reportedly left up to the NCHSAA (North Carolina High School Athletic Association), which put the squad on probation for the rest of the season.
NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker said the sign did not show “good sportsmanship,” and that it may have made some people feel unsafe.
“Every contest should be conducted in a wholesome athletic environment,” a statement from Tucker said. “We take that to mean that it’s in an environment where good sportsmanship is shown, where people feel safe… that respect for all people participating is being shown.”
While the school and state athletic association are reprimanding the girls, members of the public are backing their First Amendment rights, with a rally organized for this upcoming weekend.
U.S. Rep Richard Hudson also wrote a letter to the NCHSAA asking why the cheerleaders were being punished for exercising free speech.
“At the end of the day, these students have a First Amendment right to free speech, and the NCHSAA should immediately reconsider this unfair punishment,” Hudson’s letter states.