A big playoff game tonight between two local high school teams is being played under a cloud of controversy.
This after a flag was flown at a Saugus High School football game that has been tied to white supremacist movements but others maintain it’s simply about supporting law enforcement.
It's the first round of the playoffs between Saugus High School and Millikan High School in Long Beach.
But hanging over it is this continuing flag controversy. With the opposing coach tonight trusting authorities that his players will be safe.
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“They’re assuring me everything will be fine and I believe that everything will be fine,” Millikan High School coach, Romeo Pellum, said.
Millikan High School’s football coach is bringing his team tonight into an environment of heated debate about the meaning of the flag.
A Saugus High football player carried onto the field the so-called “thin blue line” flag last week.
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A man who said he was the boy’s father defended the flag at a school board meeting on Monday.
“He carries that flag for a very specific reason: his grandfather, his father, brothers, are all law enforcement including several other family members down the line,” the father said.
The head of the Santa Clarita chapter of the NAACP points out that the same flag was flown by white supremacists in Charlottesville and by protesters at the capitol on January 6.
“It has now been adopted by right wing extremists by racist organizations,” Valerie Bradford with the Santa Clarita NAACP, said.
“It has now been adopted by right wing extremists, by racists organizations. There are other ways to honor law enforcement, we are not anti law enforcement,’ Bradford said.
Bradford says the flag is a source of tension at Saugus high school where Black students represent only three percent of the population.
Rebecca Heindman is a parent of two students at Saugus High School, where two students were killed in a shooting in 2019. She is also running for the school board.
“We should be unified under one flag; it's the American flag,” Heindman said.
But supporters of the flag are not backing down, with some wondering if it will show up tonight, either on the field or in the stands.
“From my point of view, I am a Black man and I do have a lot of Black and brown individuals on my team. For me, it's about the safety of my kid,” Pellum said.
There is no word yet from the school district about measures being taken for this game.
The Millikan High coach says he was waiting to see if the player who flew the flag would be disciplined in some way. He said that tells him a lot about where Saugus High school stands.