Students at Valley High School in Iowa wore USA-themed gear during a basketball game — and fans of the opposing team, Des Moines North High School, are saying that was offensive.
According to local news source KCCI, Valley fans say that they’ve used a “USA” theme in the past for games against several different schools, but North’s fans are insisting that it was a personal attack against them because some of their students come from refugee families.
The controversy got so intense that a group of student leaders from Valley wound up hand-delivering a note of apology to North’s principal:
It has been brought to our attention that the decision by the Valley High School student section to wear U.S.A. apparel at our game last night was offensive to members of your community and fan base. We are deeply sorry if we have offended anyone in any way. We have traditionally dressed in such a fashion for great games such as the one last night. Everyone here at Valley has immense respect not only for your team and players but for your community as a whole. Please know that our intent was in no way to offend or demean—just to support our own team in a way we have done before.
“A lot of people were very upset about it,” North sophomore DeNasja Spencer told KCCI. “Even if that was their theme for the game, I feel like they should have switched that because everyone knows North is a more diverse school.”
North’s assistant coach, Morgan Wheat, weighed in to chastise Valley’s students for even thinking of being patriotic:
“Everything just blows up after the game and I’m still hearing about it this morning,” she told WHO TV. “Any normal person, any educated person can look at that and think, ’What the hell are these kids thinking?’”
Really, Wheat? Because I am actually wondering what the hell you are thinking.
First of all, if Valley has used this theme against schools other than North, then that means that it was not personal, because that is literally the definition of “not personal.” Second, the game was American-themed, not Donald Trump–themed — and although it wasn’t specifically stated, I’m assuming that a lot of the opposition to the theme in the name of “refugee families” was rooted in opposition to President Donald Trump and his travel ban. But here’s the thing: Having issues with a president and his policies is not the same as having an issue with a country.
Now, I’m not saying that I don’t understand why students from refugee families would have a problem with the travel ban. In fact, I’m no fan of it myself. Donald Trump did say that he wanted to ban Muslim immigrants during his campaign, and so it certainly would be reasonable to assume that that was the real intention behind this order. What’s more, it probably won’t make us any safer. According to the think tank New America, every single Islamic extremist who has carried out a deadly attack in this country since 9/11 was either a citizen or a legal resident. According to a Department of Homeland Security assessment, most foreign-born violent Islamic extremists become radicalized after they have lived here for several years.
But here’s the thing: Even though I am not a fan of this order, I am a fan of the United States. And do you know what? If these refugee families came here, then I’m guessing that there are probably at least some things that they like about it too. In fact, the main problem that many refugees have with this ban is they are (understandably) concerned that they won’t be able to come back to the United States if they visit their home countries, and that their family members who are still living in those home countries won’t be able to come visit them here. Maybe, just maybe, there are at least some things about this country that many of them still like.
But that is kind of beside the point. After all, even if every student from a refugee family at that game hated every single thing about this country, that still wouldn’t change the fact that it is completely absurd to be in the United States and expect that you won’t have to see United States–themed attire.