Column: Let us grievers grieve

Arkansas State rightly lifts ban on helmet decals

David Nelson

Many college football fans would say that last weekend’s most contentious story was the suspension of reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.

They’d be wrong.

Less than two weeks ago, Arkansas State University banned the school’s football players from putting cross stickers on their helmets to honor two former members of the ASU program who tragically passed away this past year.

Markel Owens — a former defensive lineman — was shot and killed last January, and former equipment manager Barry Weyer died in a horrific car accident in June.

The ban followed a complaint saying a public university shouldn’t display religious imagery on its football team’s helmets.

ASU’s legal counsel told athletics director Terry Mohajir the team needed to remove the decal or modify it — perhaps make it into a plus sign.

Because everyone knows nothing says, “We love you and miss you,” like a mathematical symbol.

The school reversed the decision when one football player sought legal counsel.

And that’s when the school finally recognized that trying to “separate the church and state” actually took away the players’ First Amendment right to freely practice religion.

Constitutional law aside, the issue shouldn’t have been a problem to begin with.

Players should have the option to put whatever they please on their helmets to commemorate the lives of their fallen brothers.

Whether it’s a Christian cross, an Islamic star and crescent moon or a Jewish Star of David, it just shouldn’t matter.

For those of us who’ve lost someone we love dearly, we understand the grieving process — it is full of loneliness and pain.

But when a group of people surround us with support, we are reminded that good remains in the world.

That’s what Weyer’s mother told a reporter in an emotional interview when she was discussing the situation.

She said when she saw what the football team had done with the stickers, the gesture made her feel like her son was on the field with those players.

However, with the pressure and outrage from outside sources about the crosses, the random act of kindness turned into a legal issue.

The school eventually told the players that they would have to front the money for the stickers and voluntarily wear them.

While I absolutely agree with the final verdict surrounding the situation, the apathy that seemed to go into the process fringed on being downright disturbing.

Heaven forbid anything like this happens at Minnesota. I would hope the school’s administration would hold more sympathy for the families than the one in Arkansas.