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Jordan team cancels game at Minneapolis Roosevelt after Trump sign controversy

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The Jordan boys basketball team cancelled its game Monday at Minneapolis Roosevelt High School, where it was scheduled to play Minneapolis Patrick Henry at an invitational Martin Luther King Showcase tourney.

The game would have been held at the school the Hubmen played on Tuesday, when their fans sparked a controversy by wearing patriotic colors and holding up a Donald Trump re-election sign during the game. The coach of the Minneapolis team later questioned their intention in a Facebook post.

That led some to wonder what would transpire on Monday, when the Jordan Hubmen were scheduled to play at Roosevelt in a tourney. Now, they won't be playing. 

Jordan Superintendent Matt Helgerson released a statement Sunday saying after discussion with Minneapolis Public Schools and the MLK showcase event coordinator, a decision was made to pull out of the game on Monday.

"We do not want our presence at the event to detract from the athletes," he said. "We will continue to work with the Minneapolis School District to work cooperatively to move forward in a positive direction."

Henry coach Jamil Jackson told the Star Tribune tourney organizers were told Jordan would not be coming out of “fear of something happening to the players if they came to Roosevelt to play,” which he called "totally unjustifiable.”

But Helgerson disputed that, saying it's a wonderful event that showcases the skills of athletes from across the state, but "Given recent events, we believe the participation of our team in the tournament will detract from the hard work of the athletes and the upbeat focus of the MLK Showcase."

Minneapolis Roosevelt High School coach Michael Walker posted a photo of the fans holding the sign — which said "Trump 2020 — Keep America Great! — on his Facebook page, questioning the message fans were sending. 

Walker, who is head of Minneapolis Public Schools’ Office of Black Male Student Achievement, wrote on Facebook, "I coach a predominantly black inner city high school team. We go out to a rural area in Jordan, MN and this is there. Please explain how and why this is appropriate at a high school basketball game?" He included hashtags such as #criticalquestioning, #blackandproud and #representationmatters.

Many of the Jordan fans surrounding the sign were wearing patriotic clothing — red, white and blue and stars and stripes. However, the Jordan student section often has a theme for student dress at games, and has had patriotic themes in the past. Jordan Independent Sports Editor Todd Abeln said he's never seen the students hold up a pro-Trump sign before, however.

On social media and in calls to the Independent, some supporters of the students said they decided on the patriotic theme because they heard the Minneapolis Roosevelt team was not going to come out of the locker room for the national anthem. Indeed, JHS Athletic Director Joe Perkl was notified in advance that the Minneapolis team would not be present for the national anthem.

That has led to some backlash against the Roosevelt team, prompting Walker to release a statement Friday saying, “we’re coming from a place that recognizes a history of oppression for people of color in the U.S.," according to the Star Tribune.

Helgerson has said he didn't get to the game until after halftime, and didn't see the sign, and the district doesn't sponsor student themes for games and couldn't comment on why the students wore patriotic clothing. JHS seniors run a Student Section Twitter account called @jhsthemes to come up with game themes. 

On Wednesday, Helgerson released a statement in response to the controversy, saying the district was aware of concerns raised and regrets that Roosevelt players, coaches, fans and community "were made to feel uncomfortable as it is always our intent to graciously host our opponents." He said the district took the concerns seriously, was reviewing the matter and working with the Minneapolis School District and RHS in its review and response.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.


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