ALBEMARLE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Friday night football game that was scheduled for North Stanly High School was canceled due to security concerns amid debate surrounding the recent probation of cheerleaders at the school.
“Safety is our first concern,” the tweet from the school district read.
The decision comes amid controversy surrounding the probation of cheerleaders at North Stanly High School after photos made the rounds on social media of the girls posing with a TRUMP 2020 sign during a Friday night football game in late August. They are still allowed to cheer, but have been put on notice to discontinue this type of behavior by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.
There was no high school football game Friday night at North Stanly High School, but there was a large group of people across the street.
The flags, hats, and signs of most people in that group made the event look like a Donald Trump rally, but the group’s organizer insists, this was something different.
“If there’s a Bernie flag, if there’s a Biden flag, I don’t care,” Jeremy Onitreb said. “In this country, we have the right to support who we want, and that’s what this is about.”
He says the group assembled at the empty field across the street from North Stanly High School to support the school’s cheerleaders.
Supporters believe the teens did nothing wrong.
“I believe they have a right to free speech,” Dana Knox, part of the group assembled there Friday, said.
The school says the cheerleaders violated a policy against political campaign materials at school events.
Onitreb’s group planned to hold its protest across the street during Friday night’s home football game, but that game was canceled a few hours prior, on Friday afternoon. Superintendent Dr. Jeff James cited a “potential threat against the school,” later deemed “unsubstantiated.”
When asked about any threat, the county’s sheriff told reporters, the superintendent did not fill him in on the specifics.
“He did not elaborate what that information was,” Sheriff Jeff Crisco said. “But they took that information before the school board, and the school board is the ones that decided to cancel the game for this evening”
Meanwhile, the Friday night event organizer said the rally is only the beginning of making his message to the student athletes clear.
“Everyone here is out here to support you,” Onitreb said of the group he organized. “Just to prove you did nothing wrong.”
The NCHSAA’s probation is considered to be the association putting the North Stanly cheerleaders on notice, not to engage in similar behavior moving forward. They are still allowed to cheer as normal.
Superintendent Dr. Jeff James provided a full statement regarding the decision to cancel the game Friday afternoon.
“The events earlier today with a potential threat against the school, eventually being deemed unsubstantiated and some additional information protected by federal guidelines came to our attention. We could not afford to have our students, staff or community be in harm’s way,” Dr. James said.
On Tuesday, The Stanly County Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook that several students at the school had expressed concerns about Friday’s football game and possible fights stemming from the protests. Deputies stressed that no threats were made and that students did not mention any type of threat to the school or students, other than the concern of fights.
Deputies also said the information they received was not related to any information that school officials received that caused the cancellation. Deputies said they are unaware of what that information was.
No further information was provided regarding the cancellation of Friday night’s game.