High school basketball team barred from tournament for ‘I Can’t Breathe’ shirts
The girls basketball team won’t play after players refused to agree to not wear the shirts.
The boys and girls basketball teams from Mendocino High School were uninvited from a local tournament due to concerns players would wear “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts while on campus and during pre-game warmups, according to a report from the Associated Press. The boys team was eventually added back into the tournament after all but one player agreed not to wear the shirt. The girls team will sit out after too few players agreed to not wear the shirts.
Several professional athletes including LeBron James and Kobe Bryant have worn similar shirts during pregame warmups. The teams from Mendocino High School had previously worn the shirts multiple times. According to the report, Fort Bragg High School — which is hosting the three-day tournament — made the decision to uninvite the teams from Mendocino due to safety concerns.
“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,” Fort Bragg principal Rebecca Walker said in a statement, according to the AP. “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.”
Caedyn Freehan head coach of the Mendocino girls team said the players previously wore the shirts before games without issue. Freehan wasn’t aware of the message behind the shirts prior to this.
“I didn’t even know what it meant. I thought it was a joke about how I had conditioned them so hard,” Feehan said, via the AP. “None of the administrators knew what it was or that any of them were doing it in advance. This was entirely for their cause that they had strong feelings about.”