A group of students from Iowa are now apologizing after wearing red, white, and blue outfits to a high school basketball game.
For U.S.A. theme night at Valley High School, in West Des Moines, Iowa, many teenagers in the stands wore patriotic outfits. However, because some members of the opposing team, Des Moines North State, come from refugee families, the color scheme was found to be offensive.
“Everything just blows up after the game, and I’m still hearing about it this morning,” said Morgan Wheat, an assistant coach at Des Moines North, of the hubbub, according to WhoTV.com.
The Valley High students, who decided to ditch their school colors of black and orange in favor of the patriotic hues, insisted they weren’t making a political statement of any kind with their surprise attire. But offended parties took to social media to air their grievances. “Kids are kids, I get it, but I do have questions. I want to know why,” wrote one person. “Any normal person, any educated person can look at that and think what the hell are these kids thinking,” Wheat added, presumably because of President Trump’s recent closing of the nation’s borders to refugees and citizens of seven Muslim countries.
In a display of good sportsmanship and an offering of peace, Valley High students were quick to issue a heartfelt statement to their rivals, in hopes of clearing up any misunderstandings and defusing negativity and anger.
On Thursday, Valley High School’s student leaders hand-delivered the following letter to Des Moines North, according to Fox News Insider.
To the Students and Staff of North High School:
It has been brought to our attention that the decision by the Valley High School student section to wear U.S.A. apparel at our game last night was offensive to members of your community and fan base. We are deeply sorry if we have offended anyone in any way. We have traditionally dressed in such a fashion for great games such as the one last night. Everyone here at Valley has immense respect not only for your team and players but for your community as a whole. Please know that our intent was in no way to offend or demean—just to support our own team in a way we have done before.
Congratulations on a wonderful season and we wish you nothing but the best of luck in the future.
Valley High School Student Council Leadership
The note was well received, especially by the coach of the Des Moines North State team, who conceded that it should not be assumed that the students intended any ill will. In response, he said, “I don’t want to judge those young people, not knowing their motives,” Ryan said. “What I will say is we’re proud of our diversity at North High School — not only on our basketball team, but our population,” the Des Moines Register reports.
Ryan added that he’s proud of his school’s diversity. “It’s been good for us, as a school,” Ryan said to the publication. “They learn from each other about people with different cultures and backgrounds — and we try to use it as an educational piece.”
That said, he was so into the game that he claims he didn’t even notice the change in uniform colors, never mind feel bothered by it. “They played hard,” added Wheat, who graciously extended a “hats off” to Valley High, the winning team.
Similar incidents have happened at other schools this year. Students at a high school in Tulsa, Okla., were banned from bringing American flags and banners to a football game on “U.S.A Night,” and a high school in South Carolina prohibited American flags at a football game to minimize the taunting of Hispanic students.
Despite the apology, there is reason to believe that the Valley High/North High game was racially charged. The Des Moines Register reported last fall that Iowa State University released an audit describing a culture of “deep racial disparities” at Valley High School. These disparities created “an inequitable, toxic environment for students of color,” said the Register‘s account.
Furthermore, some social media users claimed that Valley students uttered racial slurs to North students. Valley High’s principal refused to comment on those accusations.
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