CORAOPOLIS (KDKA/AP) – A high school where cheerleaders staged a national anthem protest during a visit by war veterans will play its homecoming football game with only players’ parents in attendance.
Officials with Cornell School District made the decision to move Friday’s homecoming game to the afternoon and cancel this weekend’s festivities.
The district has been receiving multiple death threats from around the country. The threats are coming in via email, social media and by phone, and officials say they’re not taking any chances.
The Cornell High School football team was gearing up for Friday’s game when KDKA-TV stopped by Thursday evening. It’s business as usual for the team despite the threats that keep coming in.
The district has been receiving threats ever since 12 out of 15 high school cheerleaders took a knee in peaceful protest during the national anthem on Sept. 30.
Members of the VFW Post 402 in Coraopolis were invited to serve as color guard at the game and the kneeling didn’t sit well with them or others.
A heavily-doctored video of the incident had been circulating on social media and made the superintendent, Aaron Thomas, the center of it all.
In a statement, Thomas said:
“The Cornell School District has experienced a situation like no other in recent days. Due in large part to inaccuracies and arguments spread through social media, the school district has received phone calls and emails from across the country. Unfortunately, this communication is to express anger and displeasure over this situation and it has resulted in a great disturbance to the district.
“Simply put, things have gotten out of hand. Personally, I have been at the brunt of these attacks due to the inaccurate belief that I set up our local veterans to be protested in front of. That is the furthest thing from the truth and I would never set up, or orchestrate something such as that. I had the privilege to meet with members of the local VFW Post 402 Tuesday evening. I was able to apologize to the veterans as a group, and to also shed light on the false perceptions that are occurring over social media.
“We were all in agreement that it is time to move on and I believe a stronger relationship was built from our discussion. I look forward working with them in an extended manner in the future. The Cornell School District is looking to move beyond this as a district and community. We are a small, close-knit community and school and this has caused a great disruption for us. We are simply ready to move on.”
KDKA-TV’s Amy Wadas spoke with school board member Jeff McBain over the phone. He says the district isn’t taking any chances and has increased police patrols for Friday’s game.
Instead of a night game, it’s been moved to 4:30 p.m. The game will only be open to parents and guardians of the players and no students.
Meanwhile, school officials say they’re in the process of working to build a stronger relationship between veterans and the district itself, and are planning to have the veterans come to its schools on Veterans Day.
The VFW is still scheduled to serve as color guard during the high school’s home game against Sto-Rox on Oct. 21.
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