A girls basketball team planning to wear 'I Can't Breathe' t-shirts were uninvited from a California basketball tournament.
The athletic director at Fort Bragg High School informed his counterpart at Mendocino High School this week that neither the boys nor girls team would be allowed to participate in the three-day tournament hosted by Fort Bragg High starting Monday, Mendocino Unified School District Superintendent Jason Morse said.
The boys team were reinstated after all but one member agreed not to wear the shirt. The women's team, however, did not have enough players agree to comply with the restriction, so they remained out of the tournament.
Mendocino varsity teams first wore the "I Can't Breathe" T-shirts before a game with Fort Bragg on Dec. 16, according to the girls coach, Caedyn Feehan. The girls also wore them before games at two other tournaments and didn't receive any blowback, Feehan said.
"I didn't even know what it meant. I thought it was a joke about how I had conditioned them so hard," Feehan said. "None of the administrators knew what it was or that any of them were doing it in advance. This was entirely for their cause that they had strong feelings about."
Professional basketball players also wore "I Can't Breathe" shirts earlier this month without any blowback from the NBA.
The principal at Fort Bragg high school wrote that the restriction on the shirts was a security precaution.
"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."