On Monday, the cheerleading team at North Stanly High School, about 50 miles east of Charlotte, was put on probation by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association after an investigation determined that the squad had violated school policy by posing with a "Trump 2020: Make America Great Again" banner prior to a game on Aug. 30, according to Asheville ABC affiliate WLOS.
A photo of the squad with the banner had appeared on Facebook after the game.
"We are currently investigating this matter," school officials said in a statement released the day after the photo appeared. "Stanly County Schools respects the rights of its students, staff, and visitors to express their opinions in a respectful manner on their own time; however, Stanly County Board of Education policy prohibits the display or distribution of political advertisements on campus or at school events."
On Friday, Stanly County Schools announced they were suddenly canceling that night's football game over concerns about students' safety.
"SCS has been notified of additional information that could compromise safety measures in place for sporting events," officials posted on Twitter. "Upon receiving information, the NSHS football game scheduled for 9/20/19 is canceled. Safety is our first concern."
Hundreds of people on a Facebook page supporting the cheerleaders said they would be coming to Friday’s game to wave American flags in support of the cheerleaders, reported Charlotte ABC affiliate WSOC.
A Twitter post made Friday afternoon after the game was called off said that a rally to support the cheerleaders was "still happening" across from the school, even though the game was canceled.
Reaction to the school's decision was mixed.
U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Concord) sent a letter in support of the cheerleaders, reading in part, “at the end of the day, these students have a First Amendment right to free speech, and the NCHSAA should immediately reconsider this unfair punishment."
But others disagreed.
“I don’t think it’s right,” one local resident told WSOC. “You can’t have a flag at the game. They called parents and said not to bring flags.”
A source told WSOC said that the canceled game was being rescheduled for Saturday morning, the station reported.