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High school basketball team makes pointed political statement before championship game

Image source: Twitter video screen cap

A suburban Philadelphia boys' basketball team turned more than a few heads before its championship game, with the mixed-race squad from Lower Merion High School donning black T-shirts with white lettering on the front for warm-ups.

The words read: "I am a Muslim. I am a refugee. I am an immigrant. I am an American. I am an Ace."

The players put their arms around each others' shoulders as they stood in a line Tuesday night during the national anthem with one player taking a knee, Colin Kaepernick-style, reported.

"The district supports and respects our students' right to express themselves and share their voices in an appropriate manner," Doug Young, the Lower Merion School District communications director and an assistant coach for team, said in a statement to Wednesday.

Young added to the outlet that "conversations the kids had before they started doing this were very powerful. The kids were in fact very open, honest and forthright."

The Lower Merion Aces have worn the T-shirts before their last four games, reported, adding that they're pretty clearly reacting to Republican President Donald Trump's temporary immigration ban.

"We've had some very good conversations about this behind closed doors," Head Coach Gregg Downer told the outlet. "The kids decided they wanted to do this, and we support what they're doing."

The players penned a statement about the T-shirts, reported, that reads in part: "What we do want to convey as a full team is that no matter where you come from, no matter who you are, you should be welcomed, respected, and heard. As a team, we believe in fighting for the rights of all — protecting, defending, and giving voice to those who feel marginalized, who live in fear, and who face injustice."

The statement also notes that "we want to make clear our respect for those who serve and have served our country defending freedom and liberty. We are grateful for your contributions."

Lower Merion — where NBA legend Kobe Bryant starred back in the day — went on to wallop Strath Haven 82-60 for it's first Central League title since 2014, said, adding that it's expected that the squad will continue wearing the T-shirts for the state playoffs starting Friday night.

"There hasn't been a lot of negative feedback," Young told the outlet. "I think most people understand that it's a message of inclusivity for all. I think that's what the players are trying to get at with this."

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