NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. – Just before the Fletcher High School football team was set to kickoff Friday, dozens of people lined up along Seagate Avenue, many waving Thin Blue Line flags.
It comes days after the Fletcher High Senators made national headlines after school leaders made the decision not to allow the flag to be flown by players on the football field, which the team had been running onto the field with since last year. Complaints surfaced about the use of the flag, some saying it was “openly racist” and “political.”
The flag was being used by the team to honor Corporal Andy Lavender, a father of one of the players who died unexpectedly last year. The players came up with a decal that was approved by the Duval County School District, which they can wear on their helmets to honor Lavender.
In addition to the flags people were waving Friday evening, some held signs and others wore T-shirts that read: “I know Andy,” referring to Lavender. A plane flew overhead with a banner reading the same.
Sarah Taylor, event coordinator for Blue Lives Matter, said flying the blue flag at football games is a good way for a son to honor his father.
“I don’t think that just because one person said, all of a sudden he shouldn’t be able to -- that they should take it away from him," Taylor said. "He’s been carrying the flag for over a year.”
The badge that some players are wearing on their helmet contains Lavender’s initials and his badge number.
“I was extremely proud of our students in the leadership they showed when coming up with the decal and different things that they could do and really rallying the team around it," said Dean Ledford, the school principal. "I thought it was an excellent job.”