MORROW — Two Little Miami High School football players initially suspended from school after they carried Thin Blue line and Thin Red line flags at a game in Morrow on September 11 have been reinstated, according to a message from the district.
Williams carried the Thin Blue Line flag. He said his father is a police officer and he wanted to honor the officers who lost their lives trying to save others on 9/11.
Bentley carried the Thin Red Line flag that represents fallen firefighters.
Williams and Bentley had asked for permission to display the flags before the game but were denied and were told there would be consequences if they disobeyed.
“Were you trying to make some kind of political statement here?” WKRC asked Williams.
“No, not at all," said Williams. I was doing it to honor the people that lost their lives 19 years ago."
“I was all for it,” Bentley said. “Because my dad is a firefighter, and if it had been him killed on 9/11, I would have wanted someone to do it for him.”
Williams and Bentley carried the flags onto the field despite being told they could not.
“Listen,” Williams said. “I don’t care what my consequences are. As long as my message gets across, I’ll be happy.”
The teens were initially given an indefinite suspension. On Tuesday, the district’s Board of Education said after completing an investigation, it was determined there weren’t any political motivations, but that the students were insubordinate.
“Moving forward, Little Miami is returning the players to active status and this matter will be readdressed as an Athletic Department Code of Conduct issue, with any potential consequences to be handled by coaching staff,” said the message from the district’s Board of Education.
“We can’t have students who decide to do something anyway after they’ve been told that they shouldn’t be doing it,” said Little Miami Schools Superintendent Gregory Power.
Power said when he denied the players carrying the flags, he saw them as symbols of a political point of view and did not want to set a precedent.
“We did not want to place ourselves in a circumstance where another family might want a different flag to come out of the tunnel, one that may be [one that] many other families may not agree with from a political perspective,” Power said.
Power said he has received hate emails and voicemails since William’s mother took to Facebook about the incident.
Warren County Prosecutor David P. Fornshell posted his support for Williams and Bentley on his Facebook page.
“I realize that this was more than just a football team; these guys are now my brothers,” Williams said.
Going forward, the only two flags to come through the football tunnel are those of the United States of America and the Little Miami spirit flag, according to a message from the board.
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