Colorado district clarifies why it won't allow names of fallen servicemen on uniforms

PSD Superintendent Sandra Smyser looks on as Fossil Ridge Principal Will Allen speaks Thursday. The football team will not be allowed to place military names on the backs of its jerseys. (Photo: Erin Hull/Coloradoan)

PSD Superintendent Sandra Smyser looks on as Fossil Ridge Principal Will Allen speaks Thursday. The football team will not be allowed to place military names on the backs of its jerseys. (Photo: Erin Hull/Coloradoan)

Poudre School District, after questioning by the Coloradoan in Fort Collins, says national rules governing high school sports dictate that the only name that can be on a player’s jersey is the name of the player.

The district called a news conference on Thursday to discuss its denial of the Fossil Ridge High School football team’s plan to individually honor fallen military members by putting their names on the uniforms for one game.

Superintendent Sandra Smyser, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools Edie Eckles, Fossil Ridge Athletic Director Ken Denning and Principal Will Allen each read prepared statements. After the news conference, district spokeswoman Danielle Clark declined to answer further questions.

RELATED: Fossil Ridge request to put names of fallen servicemen on jerseys denied

But in a statement released later Thursday, the district cited the following reasons:

• The National Federation of State High School Association’s (NFHS) rules state the player and team names are the only names permitted on a game jersey. PSD stated the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) confirmed PSD’s decision complies with this regulation.

• The district maintains the responsibility to determine what is added to game jerseys.

On Monday, however, CHSAA assistant commissioner Harry Waterman told the Coloradoan the organization does not prohibit a team from placing a player’s name — or anyone’s name — on the back of a jersey.’

NFHS rules prohibit a visiting team from displaying anything beyond a player’s number, the team and/or player name, allowed stripes and an American flag or state association-approved patch.

However, the rules as they are currently written do not directly prohibit home teams from displaying a different name. They say only that white cannot be used for team and player names, numbers and stripes.

The Fossil Ridge team wanted to honor the fallen soldiers by putting their names across the back of the jerseys. This week, the district denied the request.

“If we allow someone else to make the decision about what is placed on our game jerseys, we create a situation where legally we may have to allow others to do the same in the future,” Thursday’s statement read.

The Fossil Ridge football team has completed three months of military training and education as part of its effort to honor fallen military members. It planned to wear camouflage uniforms during a home game against Broomfield’s Legacy High on Oct. 15 for military appreciation night. Each player was assigned a fallen member of the armed forces and was asked to research his life.

Fossil Ridge’s booster club raised the money for the new uniforms, which would have been worn in just one game. The school is working to find alternative ways to honor the fallen members of the military at the Oct. 15 game.

“We feel that it’s just really unfortunate that one small detail in the process that Fossil has been going through is overshadowing the attitude of the students and of the staff and of the district, particularly to our fallen veterans,” Smyser said. “We find the whole situation unfortunate, but we hope the community doesn’t miss the point that it’s in context of quite a lot of planning and excitement and a learning opportunity for our students falling in the footsteps of some of our veterans.”

Wheat Ridge High football coach Dan Reardon coached at Poudre High School in 2012-13 and was not surprised by PSD’s position.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work at school districts across the country, both public and private,” Reardon said. “PSD has more red tape than any of them combined.”

However, in 2012, Poudre football players wore pink on the field in October — participating in a breast cancer awareness campaign. In the same way Fossil Ridge coach Brian Tinker put requirements on the team to earn the right to wear camouflage, Reardon required his team to raise money for those diagnosed with breast cancer.

Reardon said he didn’t ask for district permission ahead of time.

More News