The Minnesota High School Athletic League met with criticism after denying a hockey team in Waseca its wish to pay tribute to a wounded local police officer.
As reported by The Free Press in Mankato, Arik Matson is recovering from a gun shot to the head suffered earlier this month while responding to a call with three other officers.
The hockey team hoped to don special jerseys donated by a Minnesota company and emblazoned with the words “Waseca Police” as well as Matson’s badge number on the front and his last name above each player’s number on the back. However, the MHSAL informed the coaches the jerseys don’t comply with rules for special recognition or commemorative or memorial patches.
"You should be ashamed of yourselves," wrote one Twitter user in response to the MHSAL's decision.
Matson's brother Jared, who serves as athletic director at Crosby-Ironton High School, tweeted, “I was worried about this when I saw the design for the uniforms. However, I was hopeful that the @MSHSL would make an exception in this case. Guess not. Thank you @Bluejaypuckboss for all of your continued support. We know your hearts were in the right place! #MatsonStrong.”
Requirements for commemorative uniforms are spelled out in the MHSAL rules. “Oftentimes, schools want to change uniform colors, add uniform adornments, or use colored balls. These changes may be in direct violation of game rules which creates problems for the team, their opponents and the game officials,” the league rules say, according to The Free Press. The rules allow for a commemorative patch that is no larger than four square inches, colored wristbands or socks with a message on them, but any commemorative patch or message must be approved in writing by the superintendent or school board and the opposing team, and officials must be notified.
MHSAL officials emailed a statement to The Free Press saying they “deeply appreciate the involvement of the Waseca community, its boys' and girls' hockey programs and other athletic programs in honoring and supporting Officer Matson and the Waseca Police Department.” The statement added that they and the high school have been communicating about ways they could honor Matson while following rules dictated by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Although they can’t wear the jerseys during games, Waseca players plan to wear them while warming up. At the end of the season, the boys' and girls' hockey teams will auction the jerseys to raise money for the officer’s family. People can also buy “Waseca Police” jerseys, shirts and hats — with Matson’s badge number — online through Tuesday.
Not only are gate receipts from home games in Waseca being donated, but several other schools hosting Waseca have joined in — including receipts from a girls' basketball game. The Crosby-Ironton High School basketball teams also took a collection at games last week. Instead of school colors, fans were asked to wear blue and black — colors often associated with law enforcement, the The Free Press reported.