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Trump sock prompts soul searching

  • Several Mascenic basketball players wear Trump socks


Friday, May 12, 2017

It’s hard to imagine that the simple process of pulling on your socks could lead to such a complicated debate.

But that’s the situation one small high school in southwestern New Hampshire finds itself in after the increasingly volatile world of politics entered the field of play.

The issue goes back to this past winter when an anonymous resident (we’re guessing a President Trump critic) complained to Mascenic Regional High School officials that players on the Vikings boys basketball team were wearing Trump socks during games.

Harmless enough, right?

Not to some in the towns of New Ipswich and Greenville who saw this as a step too far.

“There were community members that were concerned about making a political statement,” school board chair Jeff Salmonson said during an interview with the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, which first reported this story earlier this month.

And with that statement, political battlelines were drawn.

Mascenic school officials have since decided to purchase team socks for future seasons as a way to avoid the issue altogether. The response and fallout posted on social media from some residents in the conservative leaning towns are questioning the perceived limits on the players’ free speech.

We’re generally the first to applaud when anyone promotes the right of free speech, which is certainly under assault in very visible ways across the country. And we concede that had the players worn socks emblazoned with “Hillary” or “Feel the Bern,” it’s far less likely they would have been reported in the first place. Regardless, this is hardly an infringement on the freedom of speech. Rather, this is a case of a school stepping in to limit a distraction.

The sports world has a long history of protests that play out on the field and on the sideline, and generally they’re held as a way to call attention to under-reported societal issues in which the establishment has been too slow to act. Tommie Smith and John Carlos donned black gloves, with fists held high, during the medal ceremony at 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City to protest the treatment of black Americans. Miami Heat players wore hoodies to call attention to the death of Trayvon Martin, and more recently and closer to home, Merrimack Valley High School football player Samuel Alicea took a knee during the national anthem in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick’s stand against police brutality.

The Mascenic High School players weren’t making a political statement. They were merely showing their political allegiance. It’s easy to see that act, harmless as it may be, as an unnecessary distraction with no greater purpose. 

In our increasingly fractured world, high school sporting events should be a place where families, classmates, teachers and fans of all stripes can come together to cheer on their team and their community.

So, leave the socks at home. Sports is a place to play games, not politics.