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HS principal allegedly says football players should stand for national anthem or quit team. Now he's on leave.


'Playing football is a privilege not a right'

Image source: WBRZ-TV video screenshot

A Louisiana high school principal is under fire after a text he allegedly sent saying that football players should stand for the national anthem or quit the team.

What are the details?

Rob Howle — principal of Liberty High School in Baton Rouge — is on administrative leave after allegedly texting a suggestion to make it "mandatory that the players stand for the national anthem or this team will never get [any more] support from the administration," WBRZ-TV reported.

The station said a handful of students took a knee during the anthem at the first game. WBRZ added that the text in question also said "that was embarrassing. Playing football is a privilege not a right. If they don't want to stand they can turn in their equipment and we will refund their money."

Image source: WBRZ-TV video screenshot

An image of the text message, dated Oct. 1, was posted on social media and came to the attention of the East Baton Rouge Parish school system on Thursday, the Advocate reported.

What else did the district have to say?

Taylor Gast, a spokeswoman for the school system, told the Advocate the message appears to be real and that the recipient of the text also works for the school system — but Gast would not identify that individual.

The Advocate also said the district issued a statement Thursday saying it launched an investigation and that "… as a result, an administrator has been placed on administrative leave." Gast identified the administrator as Howle, the outlet said, adding that Howle did not return a message seeking comment.

The district told WBRZ it "respects students' rights to freedom of speech and expression" and cited the following policy concerning the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem:

At the beginning of each school day, time shall be permitted for those students and teachers desiring to do so to observe a brief time in silent meditation (not intended or identified as a religious exercise), which shall not exceed five minutes, and for reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.

Every assembly or meeting in each school should begin with the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and with the playing or the singing of the National Anthem, and all students shall be encouraged to learn the words of the National Anthem. Throughout the playing (singing) of the National Anthem and/or the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, students shall be encouraged to exhibit respectful behavior.

Anything else?

Liberty High is a new name for the school. The Advocate said its old name — Lee High — was tossed in July amid the nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd in late May in Minneapolis. The outlet added that Lee High opened in 1959 as Robert E. Lee High School, named after the Confederate general.

Howle is starting his third year as principal, the Advocate said, adding that soon after he took over he relaunched the football program that had been dormant for a decade.

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