Two Utah high school football players have been suspended indefinitely after they appeared in a video burning an LGBTQ pride flag, which was then posted on social media, Yahoo Lifestyle reports. In the video, someone can be heard laughing and saying, "All gays die."
The video was recorded last week, and then posted to Snapchat. How it came to the attention of officials at Kearns High School remains unclear. But when head football coach Matt Rickards learned of the incident, he jumped into action. Specifically, he suspended both young men from the team indefinitely.
Speaking to Yahoo Lifestyle, he makes it clear that the young men on his team are expected to adhere to values of moral integrity, community service, and empathy. He also notes that Kearns High School is "very diverse," and that young men on his team have specifically stood up for classmates who were being bullied.
So how did two students on his team, who are expected to be men of character, wind up committing what some call a hate crime? He says that they're incoming freshman players who he's had little contact with.
Similarly, Ben Horsley, communications director for Granite School District, says that this type of bullying, particularly an oblique threat of violence such as this, will not be tolerated.
"We want to make sure every student who walks through our doors feels safe and secure in the environment that they're in. Whether it was done intentionally with a threat in mind or for humor's sake, it's inappropriate. And we're going to address it in a very serious fashion," he said.In a Facebook post that appears to have since been deleted, Kearns High School confirmed that the incident is being investigated.
It appears that the only discipline these students will face is at school. A police spokesperson confirms that, though a police report was made about this incident, they will not be investigating because "it's a free speech issue." Further, Utah's hate crime legislation does not consider singular acts as hate crimes; rather, it's an enhancement added to other crimes, such as assault.Members of the community suggest that suspending the boys from the football team should be simply a starting point for their punishment, not the only punishment they receive.
"Bare minimum: Kicked off of teams," suggested one commenter.
Similarly, more than one commenter suggested that if these boys aren't sufficiently held accountable, the Kearns students, including its LGBTQ students, will have to go to school knowing that they're not safe.