The boys basketball team at Lower Merion High in suburban Philadelphia took the court for the team’s Central League championship game wearing warm-up t-shirts that made plain the program’s support of area Muslims, immigrants and refugees in an open protest of the travel ban executive order signed by President Donald Trump. One player, Najja Walker, also kneeled during the national anthem.
As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the team has worn the t-shirts before their past four games and have received the full support of the Lower Merion School District.
“We’ve had some very good conversations about this behind closed doors,” longtime Lower Merion head coach Gregg Downer told the Inquirer. “The kids decided they wanted to do this, and we support what they’re doing.”
The shirts read: “I am a Muslim. I am a refugee. I am an immigrant. I am an American. I am an Ace.”
Downer stressed that the t-shirt and Walker’s decision to kneel are not intended to be critical of the military or any other groups. Rather, it’s intended as a message of inclusivity … and one that has sparked a winning streak for Lower Merion; the team captured its first Central League title since 2014 with an 82-60 victory against Strath Haven after warming up while wearing the shirts.
“There hasn’t been a lot of negative feedback,” Lower Merion School District communications director Doug Young told the Inquirer. “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.”