A high school cheerleading squad in North Carolina was put on probation Monday for posing with a pro-Trump banner a high school football game.
Members of the North Stanly High School squad took photos at the Aug. 30 game with the pro-Trump sign, which said “Trump 2020: Make America Great Again.” The images quickly spread on social media.
According to local press, the photos were taken on “American Night,” on which students were encouraged to wear patriotic clothing. One photo shows seven cheerleaders in red-right-and-blue uniforms and two boys in red “MAGA” hats gathered around the banner.
The day after the game, the Stanly County School district said in a statement the banner was not endorsed by the school of staff and that a student had brought the banner and taken the photo before the game.
After investigating the incident, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association punished the cheerleaders for violating a statewide ban on political displays at school events. The probation could last up to a year.
However, the district said that the squad is expected to be allowed to continue cheering.
What’s wrong with cheerleaders supporting President Trump?
Some locals accused officials of trying to discourage support for President Donald Trump.
“I am totally shocked by this,” one person wrote on Facebook. “I don’t care if you are a Republican or a Democrat, you should have the right to openly support the president of the USA!!”
Nearly 1,000 people have signed up for a Facebook event that calls for attending the school’s next football game wearing “MAGA” hats and other Trump campaign gear.
“Please come out and help me show the school and the NCHSAA that freedom of speech is not dead,” wrote the event organizer. “Please bring all your Trump and MAGA gear and lets throw our support behind the North Stanly High School cheerleaders.”
Conservative radio host Todd Starnes called on Republican Congressman Mark Meadows, who represents the students’ district, to take action.
— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) September 16, 2019
District officials said the policy against political displays on campus or school events “does not prohibit students from speaking their minds or engaging in protected First Amendment activities.”
“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 officials said.
Last year, another North Carolina high school student was forced to remove his Trump themed jersey while he attended a patriotic-themed football game.