High school football is very popular down here in Alabama. And one of the most popular things about a football Friday night is the opening ceremonies. In most stadiums, fans line the route where the football players will run and they cheer on their team once they come running onto the field. After a prayer and the national anthem, many teams will run through a paper banner made by the cheerleaders. And the paper banner will usually say something to pump up the football team to beat their opponents. Some of the banners are very creative and I enjoy seeing them. But this banner made by the cheerleaders from McAdory High School has caused nationwide controversy. It reads, “Hey Indians, get ready to leave in a Trail of Tears Round 2.”
McAdory High School was playing against the Pinson Valley Indians during the AHSAA high school football round 2 playoffs. And I guess the cheerleaders from McAdory wanted to come up with something since they were playing against the Indians. Still, I thought this was a poor way to pump up their football team. McAdory Principal Tod Humphries apologized for not pre-approving the sign before the playoff game. And Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Stephen Nowlin issued an apology where he was disappointed with the school students and he said the cheerleading squad would be disciplined.
November is Native American Heritage Month, and here is a quick history lesson about the Trail of Tears. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced many Indian tribes to be forcefully re-located to Indian Territory or present day Oklahoma. Native Americans were forced to walk the Trail of Tears, and many people took the opportunity to ridicule, humiliate, and some even died. The Indians were not allowed food or water and at times, some Indians literally dropped dead. Thousands of people died on that forced march and the Native Americans don’t think the Trail of Tears was something to be mocked, like that banner.
Many Native Americans have seen the picture of the banner online and they are not happy. Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker issued the following statement in response to the banner:
“Ironically, the Cherokee Nation is commemorating the 175th anniversary of the start of our Trail of Tears this year. About 16,000 Cherokees began the trek to Oklahoma from our homelands in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Kentucky, but only 12,000 lived through the harsh conditions that winter.
The Trail of Tears was arguably the most horrific period in the Cherokee Nation’s history and among the worst atrocities ever sanctioned by the United States government.
The legacy of that terrible era has had a profound effect on generations of tribal citizens, and still lingers today.
This unfortunate display shows how much improvement is still needed in the understanding of Native peoples, our triumphs and our challenges, both historical and modern.
We hope this becomes an opportunity for administrators at McAdory High School, and at schools all across the United States, to teach our young people not only the terrible history behind the Indian removal era, but also the resilience of tribes across the nation.”
So what do I think of this sign? Like I say, I love seeing the creative signs from the high school cheerleaders at high school football games. But I thought this sign went a little too far. When you make or say anything, you have to be careful that you don’t offend anyone. The McAdory High School cheerleaders did not think about the wording on this sign and the meaning. I think this will be a great teaching opportunity for the school students and cheerleaders. You can not offend a group of people, ever! Some of the school students and other people are defending the sign saying they thought it was okay. That’s not right like this Rick and Bubba show tweet.
This story is a great teachable moment for everyone. Remember your parents who said to watch what you say in front of other people and online. This is a great example of that saying. Everyone will come out better from this moment. There is a change.org petition asking McAdory High School to take responsibility and apologize, view and sign the petition at: http://www.change.org/petitions/mcadory-high-school-take-responsibility-for-your-racist-banner-at-your-football-game
- McAdory High School will be ‘disciplined’ for ‘Trail of Tears’ banner, Jeffco Superintendent says (al.com)
- McAdory High School issues apology for ‘Trail of Tears’ banner held up at weekend football game (al.com)
- Alabama school apologizes for ‘Trail of Tears’ football banner (foxnews.com)
- School Apologizes for Controversial Banner (whnt.com)
- Alabama high school taunts ‘Indians’ opponent with ‘Trail of Tears’ sign (tracking.si.com)
- Alabama high school offends Native Americans with ‘Trail of Tears’ banner (examiner.com)
- A High School Football Team Taunted A Rival Team Named The Indians With A “Trail Of Tears” Banner (buzzfeed.com)