The “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts have become a cultural phenomenon over the past couple of months as many NBA players have worn them to show support for the late Eric Garner and his family. Now, the Mendocino High School basketball team from California has been uninvited from a tournament for wearing the shirts in warm-ups.
According to the Guardian, the boys and girls varsity basketball teams from Mendocino High School wanted to show their support of Garner, so they donned the “I Can’t Breathe” shirts. They wore them in warm-ups, and have now been told they are out of a tournament that begins on Monday at Fort Bragg High nearby.
Needless to say, but it has started a war on Twitter between opposing views.
Forty Bragg high school denies freedom of speech to #Mendocino bball team. Can’t play in tourney b/c of wearing “I can’t breathe” T-shirts.
— Chris (@LoonerTik) December 28, 2014
#Mendocino How about a shirt reading “PANTS up won’t shoot!” Idiot thugs!
— Entropy2Liberty (@Entropy2Liberty) December 28, 2014
The “I Can’t Breathe” shirts have been worn by numerous NBA players, including Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Derrick Rose, and countless others. College basketball teams have banded together and worn the shirts during warm-ups.
Well, Deadspin is reporting that Mendocino High School wore the shirts during warm-ups for a game on December 16 against Fort Bragg High. There was not an incident on that day or any of the other times that the high school boys and girls teams had worn the shirts.
Still, the principal of Fort Bragg believes that as a “security precaution,” Mendocino High School needed to be taken out of the tournament.
“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.”
As for the boys team from Mendocino High School, they were let back in the tournament because all the boys but one said they wouldn’t wear the shirts. Connor Woods is the one boy that won’t play, and his father Marc Woods says he’s doing it to stand up for his right to free speech.
He said his son wore the “I Can’t Breathe” shirt back in mid-December for team unity, but “now that’s become a first amendment violation, that’s what he is fired up about.”
“It doesn’t take a lot to suppress the exchange of ideas when you put fear into it.”
The girls team from Mendocino High School still won’t be playing in the tournament. Enough of the girls refused not to wear the “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts that they don’t have enough to field a team.
[Image via Jae C. Hong – Associated Press]