(Big League Politics) – Parents of a Harnett Central High School student are preparing to bring legal action against the school’s principal after their child was asked to take off his Trump 45 shirt during a football game last week.
Mike Collins said his son, Matthew, had been participating in “USA America Night” Friday night, which prompted him to wear a patriotic red white and blue shirt that donned the American flag, and the torch held by the Statue of Liberty on the front. On the back, the shirt read much like a jersey with “Trump 45” printed across the student’s shoulders.
Students attending the Angier, North Carolina high school football game that night were encouraged to wear patriotic colors, which is just what Matthew did.
Here is Matthew Collins’ statement to Big League Politics, courtesy of Sonny Joy Nelson, who contributed to this report:
“On October 5th, 2018 Harnett Central had a home football game. The student section for the school is called “Gold Rush” and they come up with themes for each game. The theme for the night was “America Night” so I decided to wear a jersey that has USA and the Statue of Liberty on the front and President Donald Trump’s last name as well the number 45 since he is the 45th President. I show up at the game and I walk through the metal detector. Before I could get to the table where you pay, the national anthem began to play. Therefore, my back was turned toward the administrators before I even entered the game. After the anthem was over I walked straight to the “Gold Rush” section.
I was minding my own business talking with friends and cheering on my high school football team. I never walked to the bathroom nor committed any action that would draw attention to myself or the “Gold Rush” section. I was standing on the front row and people were standing behind me making it very hard to see the back of my shirt. So half time comes around and Mrs. Gordon (the principal) singled me out and pointed at me telling me to come towards her. I walk towards her as requested when she says “Do you have another shirt you can change into?”. I respond “yes but why”. Gordon then says “parents are complaining about your shirt” I make the statement of “why? He is the president of the United States and it is America Night”. She responded with “its political”. I came back at her with “how is it political? He is our president and it’s America Night”. She then stated “change the shirt”. As this conversation was going on, she was walking me to the front gate. However, instead of taking the stairs right beside the student section, she walked me in front of the entire stadium.
The student section is located near the end zone of one side of the field and she walked me to the staircase at the complete other end of the field in front of everyone. I then make the statement to Mrs. Gordon that “if Obama’s name was on the back of this jersey, you wouldn’t have a problem with it” She froze up and honestly didn’t know what to say. She walked me to the gate and asked “if I payed” because she was going to give me my money back. I said no and walked to my truck. At this point, I was so furious I almost had tears coming out. Mr. Booker (assistant principal) ran after me making the statement of “don’t let them win” and “come back in the game just without the jersey”. He then says “it’s just parents complaining non stop”. I then respond “those parents are what’s wrong with America” and he agreed with me. I eventually walk back in the game WITHOUT the jersey on because that was the only way I was getting back in. I felt everyone was looking at me therefore, a couple of guys and I completely left. I 100% believe I was discriminated against as well my first amendment right was violated. There were many ways to handle this situation and the way Cindy Gordon did it, was just wrong. She humiliated me and embarrassed me in front of everyone in that stadium.”
Matthew Collins’ statement ends
Matthew’s father Mike said that his son was sitting close to the front of the student’s section and interacting with other students – just doing “what students do at a football game,” when he was approached by Harnett Central Principal Cindy Gordon. Collins said the principal told Matthew that she had received complaints from other parents in the crowd who were upset about his choice to wear a t-shirt that supported President Trump.
Gordon told Matthew that in order to remain at the football game, he would have to change shirts and that if he wanted to go home and change into a different shirt that he would be allowed to reenter the game.
Matthew left, but did not return to the football game.
“He just went home because he was so embarrassed and he felt violated,” Mr. Collins said.
“Matthew felt this was a violation of his Constitutional rights,” Mr. Collins said. “This was handled the wrong way and it should have never happened.”
Mr. Collins believed his son was targeted.
“My kid was singled out and it was unfair,” Mr. Collins said.
Collins went onto say that the family has retained Lillington attorney Tony Buzzard to represent them, who described the actions of Principal Gordon as “clearly inappropriate.”
Buzzard said following an investigation into the matter by the school board, “action will be taken against the principal and possibly others.”
Buzzard also said that he was told that a different student asked if wearing an Obama shirt to the football game would be OK, and that Principal Gordon said that she didn’t see an issue with it.
Harnett Country School Board Chairman Bill Morris said he had been made aware of the situation.
“The superintendent is conducting an investigation and he is handling it internally,” Mr. Morris said. “At this point we have no further comment.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, messages left for superintendent Dr. Aaron Fleming at both his office and his cellphone were not returned. As of publication, Principal Gordon was not available for comment, nor did she return any messages left with school staff members.
Jason Lemons, a Harnett County School Board member who represents the Harnett Central district, and who also has a child who attends the school said that he is extremely concerned over this issue.
“Any infringement on anyone’s freedom of speech should not be allowed,” Mr. Lemons said. “If a student is following the rules in the handbook, as this student apparently was, they should be allowed to live their life.”