Mendocino High Girls Basketball Team Stands Firm Against Attacks on Their Righteous Protest Against Police Brutality and Murder

December 29, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


During warm-ups at a number of games in early December, the girls and boys basketball teams at Mendocino High School (on the California coast, 120 miles north of San Francisco) wore T-shirts with the words “I CAN’T BREATHE” to protest the police murders of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. The two teams were set to be part of a three-day tournament beginning December 29 in nearby Fort Bragg. But the Mendocino High teams received notice from the Fort Bragg school authorities that they were being disinvited from the tournament because of the wearing of the shirts. The members of the boys team—except for one player—decided to pledge not to wear the shirts during the tournament, and they were re-invited. But most players in the girls team refused to cave in to the pressure to abandon their principles and stand—and the team remains banned from the tournament. The student body at Mendocino High is 75 percent white, 9 percent Latino, and 1 percent Black.

Mendocino High girls basketball team.

The Mendocino High School girls basketball team wearing "I Can't Breathe" T-shirts before a recent game. AP photo

A Fort Bragg school administrator “justified” the ban on the Mendocino High girls team by saying, “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.” And officials warned that anyone protesting the T-shirt ban during the tournament would be thrown out. This is totally outrageous! What about the safety and well-being of Eric Garner—who repeatedly said “I can’t breathe” as his life was being stolen from him by a NYPD cop applying a chokehold? What about the safety and well-being of the hundreds of others, mainly Black and Latino, who are killed by police around the country each year? What about the rights supposedly guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution to free speech and political expression? And it should be noted that high school sports events are regularly full of political statements and symbols, like the national anthem and the flag, that promote U.S. chauvinism and the oppressive status quo—what is at issue in the punitive action against the Mendocino High girls team is the substance of their statement.

Marc Woods, whose son refused to back down on the shirts and so will not play in the tournament with the Mendocino boys team, said his son was “fired up” over the “violation of his First Amendment rights.” He criticized Fort Bragg officials and said, “It doesn’t take a lot to suppress the exchange of ideas when you put fear into it.”

People need to speak out in support of the Mendocino High girls basketball team and their courageous stand. Repression against people who are taking action and making statements against the rampant and wanton murder of Black people by police should not be tolerated, and protesters who come under attack must be defended.

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