School bans ‘I Can’t Breathe’ T-shirts at tournament

December 28, 2014

A high school basketball tournament in Northern California has become the latest flashpoint in the ongoing protests over police killings of unarmed black men after a school was uninvited because of concerns its players would wear T-shirts printed with the words “I Can’t Breathe” during warmups.

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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 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, Morse said. Too few girl players accepted the condition for the team to field a tournament squad, he said.

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.”

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