The boys and girls varsity basketball teams from Mendocino High School in California had their invitations to a tournament at nearby Fort Bragg High rescinded because they might possibly wear "I Can't Breathe" T-shirts during pregame warmups, reports The Guardian.
Professional basketball players like LeBron James and Kevin Garnett have worn “I Can’t Breathe” shirts during pre-game warmups. Both teams wore the T-shirts before their games on December 16, when they played at Fort Bragg High. The girls team also wore them at two other tournaments.
An apparent Mendocino local shared this photo of what appears to be the team warming up in the shirts on Twitter.
However, both teams were told they couldn't play in the three-day tournament if they wore the shirts. Fort Bragg's principal has banned them as a security precaution, with the following statement:
"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," wrote Walker, who said she was speaking on behalf of the athletic director and the Fort Bragg school superintendent. "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."
The boys team has been allowed back into the tournament, as all but one boy agreed not to wear the shirt. Not enough players on the girls team would agree not to wear the shirt, so they're sitting the tournament out.
The father of the boy who is sitting out the tournament said he first wore the shirt to show solidarity with his teammates, but now sees the ban as a free speech issue. “Now that’s become a first amendment violation, that’s what he is fired up about,” he told The Guardian. The father also said he was outraged by what he sees as using intimidation to silence players and fans. Fort Bragg administrators have warned spectators who plan to protest the T-shirt ban that they will be asked to leave, he said.
“It doesn’t take a lot to suppress the exchange of ideas when you put fear into it,” he said.