For 11 games in the 2019 football season, the Fletcher High School Senators of Neptune Beach, Fla., stampeded onto the field carrying a pro-police “Thin Blue Line” flag in honor of the deceased parent of a player who worked in law enforcement.
Now school officials have disallowed the practice, after anonymous online posters called the flag display “racist” for the way it appears to challenge the anti-police, “Black Lives Matter” atmosphere currently fashionable with U.S. news media and Democratic politicians, in an election year in which the Democratic candidate is seen as a weak, ineffectual and morally flawed establishment tool.
One online post read: “…Fletcher really out here being openly racist.” Another said: “Thin blue flag shown at Fletcher High School game, a lot of students aren’t happy.”
That was apparently enough to scare school officials, who said it was an administrative decision to prohibit the flag after several complaints. In smacking down the student who started the tradition to honor his father, Fletcher principal Dean Ledford said in a statement:
In consultation with the coaches, I determined that the act of using this flag in this personal way, while in the context of the football game opening ceremony, could easily be construed as representing a political position of our school and not just the personal feelings of the student and his teammates. Therefore, I have determined that it is no longer appropriate to continue.
“It is all about my son’s love for his dad and his memory,” said Lorie Lavender, whose son, Caelen, started the ritual.
She said her son, a junior offensive lineman, started running with the flag in honor of his late father, Cpl. Andy Lavender. He was a Jacksonville Beach police officer and active in sports programs. He passed away unexpectedly in August 2019 after 29 years in law enforcement.
Banning the flag from the games is a bad call, according to Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police President Steve Zona.
“This is a prime example where it was as innocent as can be, there is no politics involved, no us versus them, simply to honor a great man and allow his kids in the football team to honor him, and they have taken those, hijacked it and called it racism,” Zona told News4Jax. “And now the son and these kids are suffering because of it.”