A Minnesota high school hockey team planned to wear jerseys throughout the season honoring a local police officer shot in the line of duty, along with the officer's department, the Star-Tribune reported.
And this week the Waseca High School Bluejays received their donated jerseys: They include the words "Waseca Police" and Officer Arik Matson's badge number "222" on the front and his last name above each player's number on the back, the paper said.
Matson was shot in the head earlier this month while responding to a call, the Star-Tribune reported, adding that Caring Bridge indicated he's showing signs of recovery.
"He's able to slightly nod 'yes' or shake his head 'no' to questions but it's easier for him to give us a thumbs up or down," said the latest post, the paper said.
A GoFundMe page for Matson has raised more than $191,000 as of Friday afternoon.
Stop right there
But soon after receiving their special jerseys, the Minnesota State High School League said it can't allow Waseca to wear them during games since their attire doesn't comply with rules for special recognition or commemorative or memorial patches, the Star-Tribune reported.
Let the backlash begin
Upon hearing the news, a number of Twitter users took league officials to task for nixing the Waseca jerseys:
- "That's very disappointing to hear! I'm sure the opponent would have no issues with this. I think we all need to show a little compassion don't ya think!!!"
- "The [MSHSL] is beyond ridiculous with making common sense exceptions/decisions. Yet, they continue to ignore shrinking participation, lack of officials and illegal recruiting of HS athletes."
- "Well that is absolutely pathetic and heartless."
- "Wear them anyway and tell the [MSHSL] to get bent."
- "What is [MSHSL] thinking. That officer's family needs help & that's a very nice way for those kids to help."
- "They just need to get off their high horse. What a lack of compassion and common sense on their part."
The paper said an MSHSL official couldn't be reached for comment Thursday regarding the jerseys.
The next best thing
Instead of wearing the jerseys during games, the Waseca Bluejays will do so just during their pregame warm-ups, the paper said, adding that the boys and girls hockey teams will auction their jerseys to raise money for the officer's family.
What did the coach have to say about the league's decision?
Minutes before his team took to the ice for Thursday's game, Waseca hockey coach Chris Storey told the Star-Tribune, "I don't know if there's a fight to be had. It's in [the league's] bylaws. … We're just trying to comply the best we can."
He added to the paper that "we would like to wear them for a game. If not, it's not going to stop us from raising awareness and supporting this officer. It's the best we can do right now."
Republican state lawmaker has his say
GOP state Sen. John Jasinski on Friday asked the league to reconsider:
(H/T: Blue Lives Matter)