Banned for 'I Can't Breathe' Shirts, Girl Ballers Rally

Citing free speech, Calif. basketball team protests at school that booted them
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 29, 2014 1:23 PM CST
Banned for 'I Can't Breathe' Shirts, Girl Ballers Rally
This photo provided by the Fort Bragg Advocate-News shows Mendocino High School girls basketball wearing the "I Can't Breathe" T-shirts before a recent game.   (AP Photo/Fort Bragg Advocate-News, Chris Calder)

The boys' and girls' basketball teams in Mendocino, Calif., caused a stir earlier this month when they wore black warmup shirts emblazoned with "I Can't Breathe," a move that quickly got both teams uninvited from a tourney in nearby Fort Bragg. The boys' team got reinstated after all but one member agreed to leave the shirts protesting the death of Eric Garner home, reports the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, but the girls' team is taking their protest to the steps of Fort Bragg High School, where they're holding a rally today. They're characterizing it as a free-speech exercise meant to highlight racism and police brutality, notes the Press Democrat. Fort Bragg's principal had earlier said in a statement that her school couldn't ensure public safety if players couldn't set aside their "personal beliefs about a situation that occurred on the other side of our country."

Which makes it a bigger issue, Marc Woods, whose 16-year-old son is the lone holdout on the boys' team, tells the AP. "Now that's become a First Amendment violation, that's what he is fired up about," Woods says. "It doesn't take a lot to suppress the exchange of ideas when you put fear into it." Concurs the girls' coach, Caedyn Feehan, "This was entirely for their cause that they had strong feelings about. ... I didn't even know what it meant. I thought it was a joke about how I had conditioned them so hard." (More I can't breathe stories.)

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