When the boys basketball team for Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis visited Jordan High School about 45 minutes away Tuesday night, Roosevelt's coach Michael Walker spotted something in the crowd that disturbed him — and he took a photo and posted it to Facebook.
It was a group of fans seated on the first row of bleachers on the Jordan side of the gym, the Star Tribune reported, holding in their laps a 2020 reelection banner for President Donald Trump. Its message read, "Trump 2020 Keep America Great!"
"I coach a predominantly black inner city high school team," Walker wrote in his post. "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?"
Walker, who is black, also is director of his district's Office of Black Male Student Achievement, the paper said.
What did Jordan's superintendent have to say?
Matt Helgerson, superintendent of Jordan Public Schools, released a statement Wednesday afternoon expressing "regret that Roosevelt players and their coaching staff, fans and community were made to feel uncomfortable, as it is always our intent to graciously host our opponents," the Star Tribune said.
Helgerson added that district personnel are "reviewing this matter and collecting information [and] working cooperatively with the Minneapolis School District and Roosevelt High School in our review and response to this event," the paper reported.
The superintentent added to the Star Tribune that district officials also are "in the process of reviewing all our policies" in regard to whether the banner's presence violated rules, noting that "this is a new one for me."
What did a Jordan mother have to say?
Nearly 1,500 comments accompanied Walker's post as of Friday morning — and they're more or less a mix of those agreeing with the coach and those who taking issue with his position. Quite a few commenters engage in race-fueled, back-and-forth insults.
Bridget Kahn commented that the banner is hers and that her son appears in the photo — and she blasted racism accusations, saying Jordan is "absolutely not a racist community" and that the photo was taken on a planned "U.S.A.-out theme night."
"And I'm sorry is there something wrong with honoring your country??? Or is it that you just don't like President Trump???" Kahn added. " I'm sorry but I'm teaching my children to love their country and honor their president!!! This has nothing to do with anything else!! Your team chose to stand in the locker rooms during the singing of our National Anthem, that's your choice!! We don't agree, but that was YOUR choice!! So to honor our country and our president is our freedom right??? That's my Trump flag that are holding! And the red white and blue sweatpants my son is wearing!! And the Red White and blue socks!! And I'm absolutely NOT racist!!! What about all the black people that also support our president??? If they were holding the flag would it be OK then?? You had a great team! They had a great game! Why turn it into something so full of hate. Absolutely ridiculous!"
Kahn told the Star Tribune her son and others took two banners with them to the game and "left with them wrapped around them like capes. I didn't see anything wrong with that" and it was just kids wearing "a bunch of red, white and blue, supporting their president. They don't have a racist bone in their body."
Another commenter noted that a black male appears in the photo seated quite close to the attendees holding the Trump banner.
Helgerson told the paper he arrived to the gym in the second half and saw the spectators in U.S. flag-inspired garb for what he said was not a school-sponsored theme night, adding that he didn't see the Trump banner.
Others have their say
Another mother, Jeanna Orris, told the Star Tribune she was at the Roosevelt-Jordan contest and said, "I have no issues with a Trump flag at our game last night. ... It's actually pretty cool [young people] are paying attention to things going on in our country."
But Crystal Flint, who coached the Minneapolis North girls team from 2005 until early 2018, told the paper she doesn't believe the banner's presence was a good idea.
"You got freedom of speech, but would that remotely be appropriate?" Flint, who now coaches the girls team at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, added to the Star Tribune. "No, it would not."
Flint also told the paper she wants to know if the banner was at the game because Roosevelt's team is mostly black or has the banner shown up at previous Jordan home games.
"Why is politics being represented at sports? Is there an intimidation factor?" she asked the Star Tribune, noting she believes "it's divisive in this racial climate that we have."
But Orris defended those who brought the banner to the gym, telling the paper the action was part of a series of theme nights at Jordan athletic events.
"They were not trying to be offensive," she added to the Star Tribune. "Our little town is the least racist ... I just don't understand how this got turned into a race thing."