Targeted by an online petition, a Seal Beach elementary school principal has done an about face and apologized for her language in a social media post that touched on an issue raised frequently by President Donald Trump.
"It is with a sincere heart that I apologize to the McGaugh school community for any discomfort or embarrassment I may have brought," McGaugh Elementary Principal Roni Burns-Ellis stated in an email to school families.
Earlier this week, on her personal Facebook page, Burns-Ellis, lambasted Nike for a new TV commercial which is narrated by Colin Kaepernick, the retired quarterback who triggered controversy by going down on one knee during the national anthem to protest lingering racial injustices.
President Trump has been harshly critical of players not standing for the anthem, and in one tweet, used an expletive to describe players who do so.
People around the country expressed their feelings about Nike's new "Just Do It" ad narrated by free agent Kaepernick, who claims NFL team owners conspired to keep him out of the league because of his protests. The two-minute ad, also featuring athletes LeBron James and Serena Williams, aired Thursday night during the NFL season opening game.
In announcing her personal boycott of Nike, Burns-Ellis called Kaepernick an "anti-American thug."
"Hateful speak is a disease we won't want spread here," said Barbara Farrell, a grandmother of two who, with others, organized the online petition that decried "name-calling" and what she called "cyberbullying."
Top news of the day
By Thursday afternoon, more than 700 had joined the petition.
Shortly thereafter, Burns-Ellis issued her apology.
"I regret using a word that was offensive," Burns-Ellis wrote, while at the same time stating she "never meant to hurt or offend anyone."
Some comments on her Facebook page offered scathing criticism of her post, but others defended her.
"I support you 100 percent for what you wrote," read one comment.
"Thanks for speaking for many of us," stated another commenter.
The authors of the petition made a point of not attacking the viewpoint expressed by Burns-Ellis, but instead focused on urging more civility.
"We hope our school leaders will act responsibly and will walk with kindness as they lead our children with their actions," the petition stated.
"I think she won't do this again," Farrell said during an interview after the apology was issued.
The petition did not seek any discipline for Burns-Ellis, and there was no mention of any in a statement issued by Sherry Kropp, the Los Alamitos Unified School District, who has described Burns-Ellis as a "spectacular principal." The statement did distance the District from the principal's controversial post.
"One person's opinion on a personal Facebook page does not represent the values, mission, and vision of our District. We work hard to be inclusive and to help all of our students thrive and prepare for a successful future in a diverse society," Kropp stated. "The expectations for all our leaders our clear."