Cheerleaders instructed to cheer for team – not for Trump

Friday, September 20, 2019
Michael F. Haverluck (

North Stanly HS cheerleadersAfter holding up a "Trump 2020" banner displaying the president's "Make America Great Again" slogan at a recent football game, a North Carolina high school cheerleading squad was "disciplined" by being put on probation.

The controversy grew when a photo of the girls holding up the "Trump 2020" sign was posted on Facebook, but they are still allowed to cheer while being on probation throughout the semester – provided there are no more "violations." However, there is twist to this latest anti-Trump incident against students.

"The girls from North Stanly High School were given probation, but not by anyone associated with the school or district; that decision came from the North Carolina High School Athletic Association," the College Fix points out.

Odd punishment?

According to NCHSAA Commissioner Marilyn Que Tucker, the girls did violate a code of conduct.

"[The probation] serves as a notice of behavior or action that is against NCHSAA Handbook Policy or contrary to expectations of sportsmanship and proper behavior that could bring additional sanctions," Tucker stated, according to the College Fix, and it was noted that penalties can come in the form of a fine or a suspension "should infractions persist."

The district stressed that even though Stanley County Schools enforced no disciplinary measures, the girls' display violated school board policy.

"This policy does not prohibit students from speaking their minds or engaging in protected First Amendment activities," a district spokesperson emphasized, according to CBS News. "Because the cheerleaders were in uniform and were acting as representatives of the school, the display of the sign could be perceived as the school or school system endorsing a political campaign. For this reason, the only action Stanly County Schools has taken is to ask the cheerleaders not to display the sign again."

Two-fold controversy

Both sides of the political spectrum have voiced outrage or competing points of view as the controversy moves forward.

"Many are outraged that the cheer squad held up a political sign during a school-affiliated sporting event," CBS News reported. "Some, however, are outraged that they are being put on probation for practicing their First Amendment right."

A number of comments about the girls' actions and their probation flooded Facebook on August 30.

"As much as I DON'T agree with that banner … it is their right as young adults to support whomever they want," one post reads, according to CBS. "I understand this is a football game, but as long as they don't interrupt the game… I don't see an issue with the banner."

Another saw the display as nothing more than a political stunt incited by adults.

"They only did it to see if they could get people upset," another Facebook user commented. "I understand that it's their right … but they ain't even old enough to vote."

Justifying the cheerleaders' patriotic presidential slogan and message to strengthen and take pride in America is the fact that the football game was organized to promote a night celebrating the United States – a fact that is omitted by most news outlets.

"Friday night's game against Piedmont was promoted as having a theme of 'American Night,'" the Stanley News & Press pointed out. "Students were encouraged on social media to 'wear your patriotic red, white and blue to support the Comets!'"

Cheering on the cheerleaders

In a letter to NCHSAA commissioner Tucker, U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) conveyed his disgust over the cheerleaders' treatment:

"I am appalled these students are being punished for exercising their First Amendment right to free speech.

"As leaders, we should be encouraging America's youth to participate in our democracy and political process – not punishing them and silencing them. These North Stanly students respectfully displayed a sign and took a picture. They did not cause a scene, participate in a protest, or break any school code of conduct.

"… At the end of the day, these students have a First Amendment right to free speech, and the NCHSAA should immediately reconsider thus unfair punishment. I ask this not only as the federal representative of Stanly County, but also as a proud graduate of North Carolina public schools and a former NCHSAA athlete."

And an event supporting the cheerleaders is being planned on social media:

"The North Stanly High School cheerleaders have been wrongly put on probation by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association for the rest of the football season because of holding up a Trump banner before a home game on 8-30-2019. Please come out and help me show the school and the NCHSAA that freedom of speech is not dead. Please bring all your Trump and MAGA gear and let's throw our support behind the North Stanly High School cheerleaders."


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