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Picture from Elkhorn South High School football game sparks controversy

Published: Oct. 19, 2020 at 8:51 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 20, 2020 at 1:51 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A photo from an Elkhorn South football game is catching people’s attention online.

The picture shows students with letters painted on their chests to spell out “World War." They are also holding a Donald Trump campaign sign.

“I think it was intimidating. I think it was threatening. I think it was racist. I felt like it was kind of soaked in white supremacy," Erik Christensen, a parent of an Elkhorn student said.

He said when he first saw the picture, he was angry — and concerned for his stepdaughter.

Christensen said he had several conversations with school officials.

“I literally had to get up this morning, and I had to wonder if she was going to be okay when she went to school because this was the kind of environment that she was living in — one of very few black students or minority students at Elkhorn at all," he said.

6 News spoke with the principal of the high school, Mark Kalvoda. He said the picture was taken out of context. He said the picture shown online does not tell the full story.

Kalvoda said the theme of the game that night was “USA Out” and that students were supposed to show their patriotism.

More students were part of the group. Kalvoda said the students actually spelled out “2X World War Champs” and were celebrating that the country won two world wars.

As for the “Make America Great Again” sign, Kalvoda said political speech is protected.

But Christensen isn’t so sure.

“Can I take a ‘Black Lives Matter’ sign to the football game? And can I do it in the front row of the football game?" Christensen said.

He said despite the intention of the display, he wants the school to understand how it may have been perceived by others.

“How did black students respond to it? How did minority students respond to it? How did other students that are white respond to it?," Christensen asked.

Kalvoda said he spoke with students of color and their families the Monday following the incident and that the school is still looking into the incident — that there’s an ongoing investigation.

The Nebraska School Activities Association said it does not have specific language in their guidelines that addresses political signs at games.

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