Youth sports and politics don’t mix

Call it a no politics zone. No Trump, no Biden, no red, no blue, no Democrats, no Republicans. A place free from the seemingly endless harangue of politics. Sound good?

That’s what the folks who run the Marion County Youth Football League thought they had. Then came the pregame festivities between the Junior Wolf Pack and the Junior Falcons last Saturday afternoon. Alas, politics reared its ugly, divisive head out of nowhere.

As the Wolf Pack prepared to run onto the field, their cheerleaders unfurled a banner that had been given to them by two of their coaches for the players to run through. The cheerleaders had no idea what the banner said. It was just handed to them by their coaches. Once it was unrolled for all to see, however, the no politics zone had been violated.

“Make America Great Again. Trump the Falcons” it read in big red and blue letters.

The reaction was swift and what one would expect in this season of political contentiousness.

“There was like utter shock,” said Marie White, a mother of one of the Wolf Pack cheerleaders. “People were ready to yank their kids off the team.”

League President Vince Arnold and his fellow MCYFL board members were among those shocked and didn’t dawdle. They immediately assessed the situation, determined who was responsible for the deed and acted swiftly and decisively.

The two mothers behind the banner were immediately dismissed as coaches and the league issued new rules formally banning “political, racial or divisive statements.” Arnold followed up on Sunday with this statement on the MCYFL Facebook page:

“To our MCYFL community,

“Yesterday, an unfortunate incident occurred when an individual decided to make a political statement at one of the games. The people involved have been relieved of their positions at MCYFL. It is, and always has been against league policy to allow ANY political, racial or divisive statements to be made in any way, shape or form. We are a youth sports organization and that is our only focus. Our mission is to focus on the kids and maintain a fun, family friendly environment in our league.”

Good for Arnold! Good for the MCYFL board! And good for the community, which goes to youth sports events not to debate politics but to celebrate and cheer our kids.

Arnold said quite a firestorm ensued on social media following the incident, but it calmed down once he posted his statement indicating the league had acted and acted decisively.

White, who is a teacher and has assumed the Wolf Pack cheerleading coaching duties, said she knows the two women who made the banner and said they are decent people who just made a poorly thought out mistake.

“I don’t think it was anything malicious,” she said. “I think it was just a dumb decision that was political. The league handled it well.”

Arnold, who told me MCYFL “is about youth football only,” agreed.

“The mothers (who were dismissed) are very embarrassed. They’re sorry. They understand what we did.

“And I’m very proud of how the board responded. We did the right thing at the end of the day.”

White concurred.

“The league handled it well,” she said. “They immediately dealt with the situation, and I mean immediately. This was an isolated situation. These two coaches made this decision. This had nothing to do with the league.”

The playing fields and ball courts where our kids play and compete are clearly no place for politics, especially those of the 2020 brand. That somebody thought it cute or funny or smart to pull such a stunt at a youth football game … well, what were they thinking?

High fives all around to Arnold and the members of the MCYFL board. In a recent interview with Arnold, he said this about the volunteers who make MCYFL run: “It’s a service we provide to the community. And it’s fair and it’s right and it’s good.”

This past weekend, they proved it. And for that, they should be cheered.

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