Politics Comes to High School Basketball

Is there any corner of our lives into which politics does not intrude? It doesn’t seem so. Now it’s high school basketball. The Star Tribune reports:

Jordan [High School] has pulled out of an invitational basketball event scheduled for Monday — Martin Luther King Day — being hosted by Minneapolis Roosevelt.


The fallout continues from last week’s dispute over a Donald Trump re-election flag being displayed by fans of the Jordan High School boys basketball team during its game last week against visiting Minneapolis Roosevelt.

Jordan was to have played Minneapolis Patrick Henry at 5 p.m., but “fear of something happening to the players if they came to Roosevelt to play,” was the reason given to the invitational organizers, said Henry coach Jamil Jackson.

The facts here are murky. Did Jordan’s school officials fear that the basketball players would be assaulted? They deny it, but what they say doesn’t make much sense:

Jordan School District Matthew Helgerson countered that “fear was not our reason” and offered different rationale for the about-face, saying in an e-mailed statement: “Given recent events, we believe the participation of our team in the event will detract from the hard work of the athletes and the upbeat focus of the MLK Showcase.

“After discussion with the MLK Showcase event coordinator, a decision has been made to pull out of the MLK Showcase game on Monday, January 21st. We do not want our presence at the event to detract from the athletes. We will continue to work with the Minneapolis School District to work cooperatively to move forward in a positive direction.”

You may have to be a school superintendent to string together such meaningless sentences. But there is more to the story:

On Wednesday, Roosevelt coach Michael Walker questioned why young fans at his team’s road game Tuesday in Jordan prominently displayed a flag promoting Trump re-election during the game.

Walker posted on Facebook a photograph of fans on the Jordan side of the gym with the flag draped over the legs of four front-row spectators. The message read: Trump 2020 Keep America Great!

“I coach a predominantly black inner city high school team,” Walker wrote on his Facebook posting. “We go out to a rural area in Jordan, MN and this is there. Please explain how and why this is appropriate at a high school basketball game?”

I don’t think it is particularly appropriate, but why does Walker think the fact that his team is predominantly black is somehow relevant? President Trump has done a great deal more for black Americans than Barack Obama ever did. The person who owns the flag has responded:

Bridget Kahn commented on the Roosevelt coach’s Facebook posting and wrote that the flag belonged to her and was used by students as part of a long-planned USA theme night. She later told the Star Tribune, “I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

No, but to equate President Trump’s re-election with USA introduces politics where it doesn’t belong. But it turns out there is a lot of context here, much worse than bringing a Trump banner into an arena:

Since last week’s dust-up over the Trump flag, the Roosevelt team has taken heat for its practice of remaining in the locker room during the pregame playing of the national anthem. In a statement issued Friday, the Roosevelt team said “we’re coming from a place that recognizes a history of oppression for people of color in the U.S.”

Oh, please. “People of color in the U.S.” are among the most privileged people on the planet. Teaching the ideology of oppression to high school kids is disgraceful.

Jackson said his team also remains in the locker room during the national anthem for road games but is courtside for home games, where “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” treated as the black national anthem, is played instead.

This is sick, and sad. America’s public school educators are doing a grave disservice to all Americans, but above all, to their own students.

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