Two football players in the Little Miami School District of Hamilton Township, Ohio were suspended following their September 11th football game in which they carried the Thin Blue Line and Thin Red Line flags onto the field after being told not to.
Cornerback Brady Williams, the son of a police officer, and Linebacker Jarad Bentley, the son of a fireman, carried the flags onto the field to honor first responders on the 19th anniversary of 9/11, even though their request to do so had been denied.
The boys were subsequently suspended from the team while the school conducted an investigation into the incident to determine whether their actions were politically motivated.
The school has since reinstated the boys onto the team, turning over any consequences that they may face for insubordination to their coaches.
Speaking of the investigation, Little Miami Board President Bobbie Grice said, “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.”
“Listen, I don’t care what my consequences are,” Williams told Local 12 News, “as long as my message gets across I’ll be happy.”
The boys received a massive outpouring of support over the weekend from their local community and nationwide. A petition to revoke the boys’ suspension received over 19,000 signatures. A local cafe crafted a burger in the boys’ honor, donating a portion of the contributions made from it to charities. And on Tuesday, retired firefighter Perry Denehy organized a group of people in front of the boys’ school – waving American, Thin Red Line, and Thin Blue Line flags – to show their support.
Even Donald Trump, Jr. caught wind of the story and posted it to his Twitter, writing, “It’s outrageous that these students were punished for celebrating our amazing police officers.”
Josh Johns, an alum of Little Miami, told Local 12 News, “Basically, I felt the punishment did not fit the crime. Brady’s dad is a police officer, Jarad’s dad is a firefighter and this was meant to honor first responders on the anniversary of September 11th. If this was an online comment, I would say it in all caps: This was not political.”
Both the school district and the local police and fire departments have issued statements acknowledging the good relationship the institutions have shared over the years. The Hamilton Township Police Department provides school resource officers to the schools, and the schools have donated school buses to the fire department for training purposes.
In a joint statement about the events of the weekend, the Hamilton Township Police Department and Hamilton Township Fire and Rescue thanked the community for their support:
“While the circumstances surrounding the flags being carried onto the field before the football game may be an internal issue between the school district and the students involved – it weighs on us. On behalf of the men and women of the Hamilton Township Police Department and Hamilton Township Fire and Rescue, we want to thank everyone for their outpouring of support!”
Little Miami Local Schools will continue to use the American flag and the Little Mimi spirit flag exclusively for the rest of the season.