The Locust Grove High School and McDonough High School football teams met at midfield to shake and hug before a scrimmage game Friday night. Spirit ribbons distributed ahead of the game depicted an image of McDonough’s mascot, a WarHawk, strung up by a noose. 
Photo: Henry County Board of Education
Photo: Henry County Board of Education

Noose on spirit ribbon prompts apology, investigation at Henry County school

A ribbon that showed a Henry County school’s mascot strung up by a noose has prompted a swift apology from district leaders. 

A few of the ribbons made it into circulation before Locust Grove High School administrators collected them ahead of Friday night’s football scrimmage game against McDonough High School, officials said. The ribbons featured an image of McDonough’s mascot underneath the words “Hang the WarHawks.”

By the time the two teams met, it appeared bygones were bygones. Players met at midfield to shake and hug before the kickoff. Henry County Schools spokesman JD Hardin said the meeting was “a display of unity.”

It was a great first night of high school football for our schools, including the contest between the Warhawks and Wildcats. #BetterTogetherHenry #FridayNightLights

Posted by Henry County Board of Education on Friday, August 16, 2019

Administrators and athletic officials from both schools also met to apologize for the messaging, which Hardin said was unintentional.

It’s not clear who, if anyone, signed off on the design before the ribbons were distributed. It is also unclear who bought them. None of Locust Grove’s school administrators approved the purchase, Hardin said.

The ribbons came from a manufacturer who chose a stock item from a catalog of options, according to the district. 

“A further investigation is underway as to how this particular ribbon was chosen from the catalog,” Hardin said. 

Principal Tony Townsend also extended his apology to the Henry County community for the “highly inappropriate message,” which he said in a statement is never condoned. Townsend, and the school district, is using the incident as a teaching moment.

“At the end of the day, what happened is a strong reminder of the power of words, and that is why we want to publicly express our sincerest apologies for the unacceptable error in this ribbon and message being chosen,” he said.

Locust Grove is taking measures to prevent any future flubs. Hardin said closer inspection of any spirit items and multiple layers of approval are a good start. 

“Instances like the one displayed last week are unacceptable and will never be tolerated,” Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis said in a statement. “We pulled together school leaders, athletic officials, coaches, faculties, and student-athletes from both schools to work through this sensitive issue in a respectful and dignified way that sets a positive example for our students, our schools, and our community.”

Hardin also said the Henry County NAACP “has been a valuable partner and source of support throughout this unfortunate situation.”

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