An Ohio high school suspended and then reinstated two of its football players after they brandished “thin blue line” and “thin red line” flags against the school’s requests, spurring a wave of controversy online.
Jared Bentley and Brady Williams of Little Miami High School waved the flags — meant to represent support for police officers and firefighters — prior to the school’s Sept. 11 game, according to a statement obtained by Fox 19. Bentley and Williams are the sons of a fireman and policeman, respectively.
According to the Marshall Project, “Those who fly the [thin blue line] flag have said it stands for solidarity and professional pride within a dangerous, difficult profession and a solemn tribute to fallen police officers. But it has also been flown by white supremacists, appearing next to Confederate flags at the 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.” The flag has also become popular within the Blue Lives Matter movement, a response to Black Lives Matter that some believe marginalizes the latter’s message.
The school, which had been commemorating the Sept. 11 terrorist attack with a “Patriot Night” program, issued the following statement to Fox 19 Monday regarding the students’ suspension: “Little Miami Local Schools is saddened to see this story take such a negative turn. While we understand these students’ desire show their support of our first responders, they did not obtain permission from district officials. Administrators must act when students break the rules.”
After news of the suspension broke, it became the subject of criticism within conservative circles online, including Conservative Partnership Institute Chairman Jim DeMint. The Little Miami superintendent, Gregory Power, also told WKRC-TV he has received hate messages by email and voice mail since announcing the suspension of the players. And video of the flag-bearing posted by David Winter of WKRC Local 12 in Cincinnati has been viewed over 800,000 times on Twitter, and was even shared by Donald Trump Jr. with his thoughts.
“It’s outrageous that these students were punished for celebrating our amazing police officers,” he tweeted to his 5.6 million followers. “They showed real courage standing up for what they thought was right. Does anyone think @LM_Schools would have suspended them if they came out with BLM flags??? #BlueLivesMatter”
The school reversed course on Bentley and Williams’ suspensions on Tuesday, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported, after obtaining a message from the Little Miami school board.
“The results show that there were no political motivations behind this display of support for first responders on 9/11, but there were stances of insubordination,” school board president Bobbie Grice said. “Moving forward, Little Miami is returning the players to active status and this matter will be addressed as an Athletic Department Code of Conduct issue, with any potential consequences to be handled by coaching staff.”
Rockets star James Harden also received blowback after he wore a thin blue line mask in July, although he denied he was attempting to make a political statement.
“Honestly I wore it just because it covered my whole face and my beard,” he said at the time.
Jets’ Quinnen Williams slowly becoming the ‘dog’ he wants to be
Quinnen Williams looks different to observers after shedding weight and adding muscle in the offseason. His performance so far doesn’t feel the same, either.
“I can tell the difference,” the second-year Jets defensive tackle said following practice Friday. “Just experience. I had a whole season last year learning the same exact plays. I just feel comfortable in the playbook, just comfortable in the position I’m playing.”
A disappointment as a rookie, the former No. 3-overall pick in the 2019 draft out of Alabama has begun to shed that unwanted label, playing at an elite level in a Week 2 loss to the 49ers after a solid debut against the Bills.
In defeat last Sunday, he was a disruptive force, producing two sacks, two tackles for loss, four solo tackles and a forced fumble. It was arguably his best performance as a pro. But Williams hasn’t done much gloating about his effort. On Friday, he said his focus was on the future instead of the past and on helping the Jets win their first game.
“I want to be better. I want to win. So anything that I can do to help the team, anything I did wrong in that last game, I want to get corrected so I don’t do it wrong again,” he said. “I’m not really focused on how I played last week or what I did. I’m just focused on being consistent every week and trying to get a win.”
“One of the first things that come out of his mouth is I could have played better and that is even more impressive to me,” defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said.
After the season-opening loss to the Bills, Quinnen Williams made similar comments, saying he had to do “much more” and “be a dog.” It’s fair to say he achieved those goals against the 49ers.
And now comes another test against the Colts’ elite offensive line. It will be telling to see how Williams performs. His arrow certainly seems to be pointing upwards.
“With confidence builds more confidence,” Gregg Williams said. “He’s got a skill-set that’s up there towards the top of the league.”
Giants not taking favorable Nick Mullens matchup lightly vs. 49ers
The Giants opened the season against Ben Roethlisberger, playing his first game since undergoing surgery on his throwing elbow. Week 2 presented a matchup against the ever-inconsistent Mitch Trubisky.
Still, the Giants enter Sunday looking for their first win.
A meeting with the 49ers’ Nick Mullens — a 25-year-old undrafted quarterback out of Southern Mississippi, who last week threw his first regular-season pass since 2018 — is the most inviting yet.
Niners coach Kyle Shanahan announced Friday that Mullens will start Sunday for the first time since Dec. 30, 2018, with Jimmy Garoppolo sidelined by an ankle injury he suffered in last week’s win against the Jets.
“Mullens is a talented quarterback, who has some really nice traits about him,” Giants defensive back Julian Love said. “He’s a guy that can really throw the ball. We’re locked in just like we’re playing [Garoppolo] out there and that’s our mindset with it. He’s a quarterback in the National Football League, so he has talent.”
Talent varies. Joe Montana was an NFL quarterback. So was Tim Tebow.
Instead of facing the quarterback who led the 49ers to a fourth-quarter lead in the Super Bowl last season, the Giants will prepare for someone who was cut by San Francisco twice, and who only was promoted from the practice squad in 2018 after Garoppolo tore his ACL.
Starting the final eight games of that season, Mullens threw for 2,277 yards, 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, while completing 64.2 percent of his passes. The Giants got the better of Mullens in a November 2018 matchup, when he completed 27 of 39 passes for 250 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions in a 27-23 San Francisco loss.
“We’ll use all the resources we have, whether that’s players on the field and they remember something about it, or coaches in the building at the time, and all of the game tape, obviously,” Giants head coach Joe Judge said. “Nick’s a good quarterback. He’s a competitive dude. He’s a tough dude, Southern Miss mentality, really overachieving-type guys. He’s comfortable in the pocket, gets the ball out of his hands really quick. He’s an accurate passer.
“I can’t say over and over enough how competitive this guy is and how much we expect this guy to fight and give his team every advantage possible.”
Except Mullens steps back into MetLife Stadium at a disadvantage, playing without injured running backs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman, as well as All-Pro tight end George Kittle.
Replacing Garoppolo in the 31-13 win last week, Mullens completed 8 of 11 passes for 71 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception.
“It’s my fourth year. There’s really no excuses to why I shouldn’t perform,” Mullens said after the game. “And so that’s kind of what has kept pushing me.”
The Giants have motivation, too. One of the toughest games on their schedule no longer looks so lopsided.
Tom Thibodeau wants to build Knicks using Pat Riley’s Heat model
Tom Thibodeau knows he’s building the Knicks from scratch.
But Thibodeau has a Miami model to which to aspire — with one of his idols, president Pat Riley, constructing another edition ready for the NBA Finals. Ironically, Riley built this version with one of Thibodeau’s own pupils, Jimmy Butler, at the fulcrum.
Thibodeau would love to build the Knicks into Heat Northeast and says he has adopted Riley’s “core values.’’ The Heat, who entered Friday night one victory away from the NBA Finals with a 3-1 lead on Boston, embody everything Thibodeau stands for.
That includes the key presence of Butler, who was molded by Thibodeau in Chicago. Thibodeau has received a lot of credit for turning Butler into an all-encompassing star, but ironically it led to his ouster from Minnesota.
“I’m thrilled for him,’’ Thibodeau said after the third day of team practices as part of the club’s “Delete 8” OTAs. “It’s a great story. It’s a guy who was drafted 30th and made himself better every year. Even now, an established All-Star, he still works incredibly hard.
“He plays very unselfishly, plays to win. He’s not about statistics. I knew that from the start with him. I never envisioned him being this good. I always thought he’d be a good player. But he’s made himself into a superstar because of his intelligence, talent and work ethic. He’s a guy who constantly studies and brings about the best in his teammates.”
When Butler was a free agent in 2019, the Knicks’ past management wasn’t interested in Butler’s leadership and defense. Thibodeau, as former president and coach of the Timberwolves, traded for Butler in 2017, but it backfired.
As it happened, Butler’s hard-nosed approach wasn’t accepted by Minnesota’s ownership, management or their young players. Butler asked to be traded and Thibodeau was soon out of a job.
“Butler didn’t like some of the guys’ lack of professionalism,” one NBA source told The Post. “[Jimmy] and Tom had long talks about how to deal with it. When Butler realized it was unsolvable, he lashed out at the organization. His clock was ticking on his prime and didn’t want to waste it and forced his way out. Tommy was telling him to have patience, see it through.”
Had Butler stuck it out, Thibodeau probably would still be in Minnesota. Asked if he has been watching Miami’s playoff run and wondering what-if, Thibodeau smiled.
“I never work backwards,” he said. “Minnesota was Minnesota and now there’s a new chapter. It’s New York. And that’s really what I think about all the time. It’s all consuming. How can we get better, improve? How do we bring the best out of the group? I’m looking forward to this challenge.”
And a challenge it is. Thibodeau is the seventh Knicks coach in eight years and the franchise has missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons. By contrast, Erik Spoelstra has been Miami’s coach for 12 years. Thibodeau noted the Heat’s “continuity’’ as vital.
“I have great respect for the Heat organization, the way they play, what Pat Riley has done there, Erik Spoelstra,” Thibodeau said. “They have great ownership in Mickey Arison. They’ve done it for a long time. The continuity has been important for them. They’ve evolved as the game has evolved. The things they believe in have stood the test of time — fundamentals, intensity, their work ethic. Those are all Pat Riley trademarks. I know Knicks fans are familiar with that from when Pat was here.”
Thibodeau never worked alongside Riley, who left the Knicks for Miami in 1995. But Thibodeau felt the ghost of Riley when he joined Jeff Van Gundy’s Knicks staff in 1996.
“When I came here the first time. I had come from Philadelphia, and it was just so different,’’ Thibodeau siad. “[Riley] was so far ahead of this time and, Jeff carried over a lot of those things. Pat did it in L.A. He won a championship there, then he got the Knicks to the doorstep. To do it several times in Miami. He’s rebuilt the organization three or four times.
“He’s at the top of my list,’’ he added. “He’s been great to me over the years, and I’ve taken a lot of things that he’s said to me. I’ve watched their organization very closely. You understand what their core values are.”
After staging a week of individual workouts governed by safety protocols, Thibodeau still has at least five days left for group practices. He hopes to have “a voice’’ in the Nov. 18 draft, but the franchise feels farther than 1,300 miles away from Miami.
“There’s a base you have that you believe in. but you also want to study the team you have and what they’re good at,’’ Thibodeau said. “The important thing for us is establishing the conditioning and discipline part and also going over all the fundamentals and starting from a zero base. We’re building a foundation.’’
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