STANLY COUNTY, N.C. — A high school football game was canceled Friday afternoon in Stanly County ahead of a rally in support of cheerleaders who were caught up in a controversy last week.
NBC Charlotte later learned Stanly County Schools decided to hold the football game at 11 a.m. Saturday morning.
The squad came under fire over a picture of them holding a Trump 2020 banner at a home game last month. They were placed on probation by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA).
A rally had been organized for Friday night in support of the group. Stanly County schools issued this statement just after 4 p.m. Friday:
Stanly County Schools has been notified of additional information that could compromise safety measures our schools have in place for sporting events. Upon receiving information at approximately 3:00 P.M., at this time we regret to announce we will be canceling the North Stanly High School football game scheduled for Friday, September 20, 2019, with the support of Rowan-Salisbury Schools. We understand this may cause an inconvenience for many, and we apologize. Please know our number one concern is the safety of our students, athletes, staff, and community supporters.
The story garnered national attention and caught the eye of Jeremy Onitreb who took to Facebook and organized an event to support the cheerleaders.
On the event’s page, Onitreb wrote: “Please come out and help me show the school and the NCHSAA that freedom of speech is not dead. Please bring all your Trump and MAGA gear and let's throw our support behind the North Stanly High School cheerleaders.”
Onitreb asked anyone who planned to attend to join him across the street from the school Friday evening before the school’s football game against Jesse Carson.
"These girls were innocent. They took an innocent picture. That was it, it was never meant to trigger anybody," said Onitreb.
"I just think it was really harsh of them to do that," said Carrie Pennington who attended the rally. "We're here to show support for the girls."
"We want them to know, we're behind them. The country is behind them," Pennington added.
The Stanly County Sheriff’s Office previously said they planned to have added security at the game to make sure that anyone who wished to attend feels safe.
The NCHSAA previously issued a statement saying:
NCHSAA probation, in and of itself, is not a punishment. It serves as a notice of behavior or action that is against NCHSAA Handbook Policy or contrary to expectations of sportsmanship and proper behavior. Should probationary infractions persist at a member school or within a team at a member school, additional sanctions such as fines or suspensions could be implemented.