Over the weekend, Arkansas State’s football players Jemar Clark and Darion Griswold happened to sit on the bench next to each other when the television cameras caught them at just the right moment. Even @SportsCenter remarked on the inadvertent humor of two jerseys reading “Clark Griswold“:
Hilarious. Lots of retweets. Everyone had a good laugh.
Just one problem: Why were there Christian crosses on their helmets?
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, acting on a tip, wanted to know, so they sent a letter to the school’s athletic department about it.
This afternoon, Arkansas State issued a press release saying those crosses would soon disappear:
Arkansas State Director of Athletics Terry Mohajir has issued the following statement regarding the football team’s helmet decals honoring former player Markel Owens and manager Barry Weyer, who both tragically passed away earlier this year.
“I am 100 percent in support of our coaches’ and players’ expression of faith, as well as their choice to honor the two individuals associated with our team who passed away by voluntarily wearing a cross decal on the back of their helmets. Unfortunately, we have received a complaint that use of the cross violates the Constitutional prohibition against separation of church and state.
“After consulting with University counsel, we have been advised to either modify the decal or remove it completely. Thus, in order to ensure that we are in full compliance with Constitutional law, we will be modifying the decal to still honor the two individuals who are no longer with us.”
No one’s complaining about honoring the memories of two people important to the school’s football program, but those crosses aren’t the way to do it. Religious symbols don’t belong on team equipment. The school officials are doing the right thing by swapping out the crosses for something constitutional. But they should have known better to begin with.