The boys and girls varsity basketball teams from Mendocino High School (Calif.) were uninvited from a tournament next week because players had discussed wearing "I Can't Breathe" shirts.
According to The Guardian, the Mendocino school district eventually reinstated the boys team after all but one player agreed not to wear the shirts in warmups, or anywhere on site of the three-day tournament in Fort Bragg, Calif. The girls team was not reinstated because too few players "accepted the condition for the team to field a tournament squad."
Professional athletes have popularized wearing the shirts in warmups after "I can't breathe" were among the last words from Eric Garner, a 43-year-old New York City man who died in July after he was placed in a chokehold by a police officer. The incident, which was captured on video and spurred a nationwide reaction, was later ruled a homicide by the medical examiner. A grand jury chose not to indict the NYPD officer involved.
Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose became the first NBA player to wear the shirt earlier this month, and Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James and Kyrie Irving also followed suit, along with various Brooklyn Nets players.
According to the Guardian, the principal at Fort Bragg High, Rebecca Walker, issued a written statement that said the school's administration respected the Mendocino teams "for paying attention to what is going on in the world around them," but that the T-shirts would be prohibited as a matter of security.
“To protect the safety and well-being of all tournament participants it is necessary to ensure that all political statements and or protests are kept away from this tournament,” wrote Walker, who said she was speaking on behalf of the athletic director and the Fort Bragg school superintendent. “We are a small school district that simply does not have the resources to ensure the safety and well-being of our staff, students and guests at the tournament should someone get upset and choose to act out.”
According to Mendocino girls coach Caedyn Feehan, the team first wore "I Can't Breathe" shirts before a game vs. Fort Bragg on Dec. 16.
- Mike Fiammetta