Weld schools leaders counter Denver high school’s allegations, saying no Confederate flag was displayed at football game

Weld County schools leaders weighed in Sunday after a football game in Denver where Manual High School players and the principal alleged a Confederate flag was displayed and that players were taunted with racial slurs — saying they found no evidence this happened.

The Weld officials declared they’ve canceled future sports competitions with Manual High School in Denver and denounced any form of racism.

This January file photo depicts Weld Central Middle School's mascot. The mascot, which is the same one used by Weld Central High School, has come under fire recently.

Photo provided by The Greeley Tribune

This January file photo depicts Weld Central Middle School’s mascot. The mascot, which is the same one used by Weld Central High School, has come under fire recently.

Weld Central High officials reviewed a video recording of the Friday night football game at Manual that included shots of the crowd, Superintendent Greg Rabenhorst and Weld Central High School Principal Dan Kennedy said in a letter distributed to families.

“From our viewings, no signs of a Confederate flag exist. Further, we have no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior on or off the field….,” Rabenhorst and Kennedy wrote.

“We are not certain what may have led to what currently appears to be false accusations toward our team and spectators.”

Weld Central is located in Keenesburg, about 40 miles northeast of Denver, and the school’s Confederate-themed “Rebel” mascot has stirred conflict recently reflecting the national debate around Civil War monuments and racism.

Concerns surfaced Saturday after Manual Principal Nick Dawkins put out a letter addressing incidents he called “extremely concerning” and publicly shared “the facts as I know them at this time.”

The visiting Weld Central team had “a Rebel mascot,” Dawkins said in a letter to families, and “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the game, offending many members of the Manual community. We asked them to remove the flag and they did so. However, the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field. Three of our players were injured during the game, including a student who suffered a concussion and a student who was transported to the hospital for a leg injury.”

Those players will be fine, the letter said.

But, in addition, “some of our players reported that, when tackled, players from the opposing team taunted them with racial slurs,” Dawkins wrote.

Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg was notified and “is reaching out to the Weld County superintendent to express our concerns that such symbols of racism and hatred, and racial slurs, ought to have no place in athletics or in any part of our students’ experiences,” Dawkins’ letter said. “We are all very concerned about what occurred and are trying to gather as much information as we can so we can determine next steps.”

The Weld schools officials’ letter said their investigation isn’t done and that “any behavior of this form found to be true will be subject to discipline. In the event any accusations are substantiated, we as a district will take full responsibility in condemning such behavior and disciplining students as appropriate.”

On Sunday, Denver Public Schools officials posted a follow-on letter from Dawkins to parents saying Monday’s junior varsity football game with Weld Central has been canceled and that Manual officials are “reaching out to the Colorado High School Athletics Association (CHSAA) for support in ensuring all future athletic contests are conducted in a positive spirit.”

Dawkins’ Sunday letter thanks families for support and kindness, noting that Manual has been “challenged by our fears over DACA” and by the deaths of two Manual students.

On Sept. 5 the Trump administration ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shielded immigrants brought as children illegally to the U.S. from deportation.

“It is in this light that I am asking our community and media to respect the healing and grieving process our students are going through by allowing us to return our focus to school and the upcoming spirit week and homecoming activities that can make high school so fun,” Dawkins wrote.

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