A California high school basketball tournament has become the latest center of controversy in the ongoing protests over police killings of unarmed black men after a team was banned from playing because of concerns its players would wear T-shirts printed with the words 'I Can't Breathe' during warmups.
According to 5KPIX, the athletic director for Mendocino High School was informed by his counterpart at Fort Bragg High School this week that neither the boys nor girls teams 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 were reinstated after all but one player agreed not to wear the shirts inspired by the last words of Eric Garner, the New York man who died after an officer put him in a chokehold, while on the Fort Bragg campus during the Vern Piver Holiday Classic tournament, said Morse.
Too few girl players accepted the condition for the team to field a tournament squad, he said.
"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.
Mendocino varsity teams first wore the "I Can't Breathe" T-shirts before a game with Fort Bragg on December 16, according to the girls coach, Caedyn Feehan.
The student bodies at the picturesque Northern California schools are 1 percent black and 50 percent white and 41 percent Hispanic at Fort Bragg, 75 percent white and 9 percent Hispanic at Mendocino, respectively.