There's nothing wrong with a sense of school pride at local high school football games. Then again, there is nothing right about about bothering your fellow countrymen with racist rhetoric and thinly-veiled threats.

It seems many forgot this distinction on Friday, September 7, during a game between Aliso Niguel High School and Santa Ana High School in Orange County, California. Aliso Niguel, a predominantly white school, reportedly welcomed Santa Ana, whose student body is predominantly Hispanic, with a bevy of signs featuring slogans like "we gonna...TRUMP ya" and "We love White."

Many details of the game, which made national headlines due to its politically and racially charged nature, remain in dispute. Jeff Bishop, principal of Santa Ana High School, posted about it on Facebook, saying:

It would have been easy to blame [the loss of the game on] the racist welcome the 'Saints' received as they walked into the stadium and read the posters referencing – Trump, 'We love White,' 'Build the Wall' and various other politically and racially-charged statements.

Bishop also reported he heard chants of "USA! USA!" from Aliso Niguel students, "as if the [two] teams were from different countries":

After hearing chants from the student cheering section – "USA-USA-USA" after the first two touchdowns, morally – I could not ignore it anymore! After talking to the principal and watching her and her Assistant principals snag the signs away from these disrespectful and out of control students – it seemed to help.

Bishop confronted the principal of Aliso Niguel, threatening to end the game if something did not change:

I told her 'You're playing Americans. You're playing 'Dreamers.' I don't understand the USA pride thing when you score. And if I hear it one more time, I am walking off the field with the team.'

Aliso Niguel officials began removing signs and making efforts to calm the crowd immediately. They later commented:

...we do understand what people may have felt. We have deep respect for Santa Ana High School. We will continue to look into things Monday to further evaluate our event.

There are some reports that the Aliso Niguel crowd also began chanting "Build the Wall!" at the opposing team, but those reports are now disputed among people who were at the event.

Innumerable instances of students trying their hand at hateful rhetoric have cropped up since President Trump took office. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports a group of white students in Arizona raised a Confederate flag during the pledge of allegiance at an assembly, and a Georgia high school teacher said students joked about Latino students "going back to Mexico."

Students' right to free speech and the role of political discourse in their education and upbringing has always been a hotly debated issue, as is the divide between what children say and what they fully grasp.

Rick Weissbourd, a Harvard education professor, commented:

You have to teach students to understand. … Yes, they have the right to free speech, but they don't have the right to degrade other people.

USC law professor Jody Armour stated that context can make a huge difference, as it did during the Aliso Niguel football game. Though a chant of "USA!" doesn't turn any heads at the World Cup, when used at a game between two high schools, it can be an example of "weaponizing patriotism."

Armour said:

You're using it as a way of insinuating that the people on the other team are not really one of us. ... They're not really American.

Some Aliso Niguel parents have been critical of Santa Ana's Principal Bishop for posting his views publicly on social media.

Bishop, and many from Santa Ana, believe his message was an important one:

It's never acceptable to paint a community with a broad brush.

H/T - Rawstory, The LA Times

Image by Mary Pahlke from Pixabay

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