The boys basketball coach for Minneapolis Roosevelt High School questioned on Wednesday why young fans at his team’s road game in Jordan prominently displayed a flag promoting the re-election of President Donald Trump during Tuesday night’s contest.
Michael 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!
Several other young fans sitting nearby were wearing clothing patterned after the American flag.
“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?”
Walker included a slew of hashtag phrases, among them #critical questioning, #blackandproud and #blackmenmatter. Walker, who is black, also is the director of his district’s Office of Black Male Student Achievement.
School District Superintendent Matt Helgerson 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.”
Helgerson said 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.”
Bridget Kahn commented on the Roosevelt coach’s Facebook posting wrote that the flag belonged to her and was used by students as part of a long-planned USA blackout theme night.
Kahn told the Star Tribune later that her son and others took two of the flags with them to the game and “left with them wrapped around them like capes. I didn’t see anything wrong with that.”
She said this was nothing more than young people wearing “a bunch of red, white and blue, supporting their president. They don’t have a racist bone in their body.”
Kahn also pointed out, and the superintendent confirmed, that the Roosevelt team remained in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem before tipoff.
The Roosevelt team has been carrying out this action at both home and away games, and “the Jordan team was made aware of that practice before the game,” Minneapolis schools spokesman Dirk Tedmon said.
Helgerson said 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. He added that he didn’t see the Trump flag by the time he arrived.
As for whether the presence of the flag during a school event violated any district policy, Helgerson said, “We’re in the process of reviewing all our policies as it relates to this particular situation. This is a new one for me.”
Tedmon said that the Minneapolis district’s policy is “to not allow political advertising” at games it hosts.
Jeanna Orris, who has three children in district schools, was at the game Tuesday and said, “I have no issues with a Trump flag at our game last night in regards to racism. It could be seen as 'It’s actually pretty cool [young people] are paying attention to things going on in our country.'”
Joining the Roosevelt coach in concern about the flag’s presence during the game is Crystal Flint, who coached the Minneapolis North girls team from 2005 until early 2018.
“You got freedom of speech, but would that remotely be appropriate?” said Flint, who now coaches the girls team at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul. “No, it would not.”
Flint said she wants to know whether the flag was displayed because Roosevelt’s team is mostly black or has it been brought to previous Jordan home games.
In any event, she continued, “Why is politics being represented at sports? Is there an intimidation factor? ... I think it’s divisive in this racial climate that we have.”
Orris defended the intentions of those who brought the flag to the game, saying it was there merely as part of one of a series of theme nights at Jordan athletic events.
“They were not trying to be offensive,” she said. “Our little town is the least racist ... I just don’t understand how this got turned into a race thing.”
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482