Cheerleaders at an Ohio high school made headlines recently for a banner that many found offensive. In celebration of their last scheduled game of the season against the Hillsboro (Ohio) Indians, the cheerleading squad for McClain High School unrolled a homemade banner that went a step beyond the usual level of intimidation banter between rivals. The banner read, “Hey Indians, get ready for a Trail of Tears, part two.”
The banner elicited an immediate angry response from spectators who did not appreciate the irreverent reference to a period of history where approximately 4,000 Native Americans died in a forced westward migration after being dispossessed of their land by the United States government. The retaliation on social media has been voluminous and fierce.
In a tweet shared by WCPO Cincinnati, Rachel Onusko posted a picture of the banner, calling it “beyond ignorant and offensive. This is not how I want my hometown represented,” she wrote.
The vast majority of posted reactions are unified in their criticism of the cheerleaders’ message, but some also extend their criticism to the opposing team. The Washington Post has shared a tweet from Martie Simmons, who wrote, “Exactly the problem with racist mascots, it opens the door for this kind of ignorance.”
On Friday after the game, representatives for McClain High School posted a public apology to the school’s Facebook page, reading, “Tonight an event occurred that does not reflect the values or beliefs that we try to instill in the student of McClain High School. An immediate apology was issued to both the principal and athletic director of Hillsboro High School. We would also like to apologize to the citizens of Greenfield for the poor reflection on our community. This matter will be addressed internally.”
The apology has since been taken down, an action that has not gone unnoticed, and which has only served to further inflame the school’s public audience.