WELLSBURG, W.Va. – The mostly white Brooke High School in West Virginia faces allegations of racism after a Friday football game against Pittsburgh’s mostly black Perry High School featured a student-made banner that read “Trump Perry.”
Numerous students donned red, white and blue for Friday’s game, which featured a home-team banner with the words “Trump Perry” alongside an American flag. The Brooke team posted an image of the banner on its social media sites, and the backlash from the game and online has been brutal, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
— Sheila May-Stein (@smaystein) September 23, 2017
“My mostly Black, inner-city school played this team last night & were confronted w/ this,” Perry librarian Sheila May-Stein posted to Twitter on Saturday along with an image of the banner. “Sickening racism.”
“The use of the current President’s name is an intentional signal to opponents that they are in ‘Trump’ territory – and that has real meaning, especially for our Black children in this moment,” Pittsburgh parent Jessie Ramey wrote in an open letter to Brooke County Superintendent Toni Paesano Shute.
“… I am appalled that the adults in your school district not only approved of this sign, but are actively celebrating it, making it the featured photograph on the official school team Twitter page,” Ramey wrote. “This is what racism in America looks like today.”
The Booke team’s Twitter account, however, provided a much different rationale for the banner that has nothing to do with racism.
The account, which featured the banner until late Monday morning, contends “every home game a different theme and this one was red white & blue so we used the saying ‘trump’ for double meaning.
“Being one our president and two using the world (sic) ‘trump’ which also means ‘beat,’” according to the Twitter page. “Also this was our first time ever playing them.”
Brooke High School did “trump” Perry, 34-20, according to the Post-Gazette, but now Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet is calling for a meeting with Shute to discuss the allegedly racist banner, though it’s unclear if or when that might happen.
PPS spokeswoman Ebony Pugh told the school board the banner was featured on both Brooke High School’s Facebook and Twitter pages, but otherwise the game went great.
“According to the Perry coaching staff the overall game experience went well without incident. The Brooke team and cheerleaders treated Perry players and cheerleaders cordially,” Pugh said. “Perry coaches did not report any further incidents from game attendees.”
The incident occurred on the same weekend that President Trump spoke out on Twitter about the ongoing protests of the national anthem by NFL players, suggesting teams should fire players who disrespect America by kneeling during The Star-Spangled Banner. He also called for spectators to boycott games if the protests continue.
Dozens of NFL players responded by kneeling during the national anthem during games throughout the weekend while many Trump supporters lined up outside of stadiums to protest the disrespect.
The debacle in Brooke County, meanwhile, is also generating reactions from folks on both sides of the issue.
“Perhaps the ‘Trump Perry’ sign wasn’t a direct result of Donald Trump’s words Friday, but they exist under the same ‘Make America Great Again’ umbrella,” The Root’s Damon Young opined. “In Trump’s America, the pre-eminent cultural zeitgeist is racism, and it stretches from Washington, D.C., to every tiny Trump-supporting school district.”
Many other folks, of course, disagree.
“The sign was part of our student section theme. We did a Red white and blue theme to support our country and our president,” student Austin Jenkins posted to Twitter on Saturday. “People who play the racist card is the reason that there is still racism today. So grow up and move on from your stupid thoughts.”