Both boys' and girls' varsity basketball teams from a Northern California high school were disinvited from a tournament because of concerns that players would wear "I Can't Breathe" t-shirts during warm-ups, the Associated Press reports.
Mendocino Unified School District Superintendent Jason Morse told the AP that the boys' team was ultimately re-invited to the tournament at nearby Fort Bragg High School "after all but one player agreed not to wear the shirts anywhere on the Fort Bragg campus during the three-day tournament."
"Too few girls accepted the condition for the team to field a tournament squad," the AP reports.
The words, Eric Garner's last, have become a slogan for protestors demonstrating against police brutality and racism in the American justice system. After a Staten Island grand jury failed to indict the NYPD officer who placed Garner in the chokehold which killed him many athletes began wearing shirts with the words printed on them during warm-ups before games.
Both Mendocino boys' and girls' teams had reportedly worn "I Can't Breathe" shirts while warming up for games in recent weeks without consequence. "I didn't even know what it meant," their coach said. "I thought it was a joke about how I had conditioned them so hard."
"To protect the safety and well-being of all tournament participants it is necessary to ensure that all political statements and or protests are kept away from this tournament," Fort Bragg Principal Rebecca Walker said in a written statement. She also commended the students "for paying attention to what is going on in the world around them."
[Image via AP Images]