Talk about killing it with kindness.
After an elementary school in Weld County District 6 drew the ire of sports fans for prohibiting a third-grader from wearing the jersey of his favorite player, Peyton Manning, the National Football League responded by sending 1,000 orange "Peyton Knows" T-shirts to students.
The school district doesn't have an outright ban on sports jerseys per se, but an anti-gang policy that has been in place for the past four years has kept students from wearing specific numbers, including Manning's number 18. The story gained national traction earlier this month when Weld County student Konnor Vanatta, 8, was told he couldn't wear his favorite player's jersey.
“Peyton Manning's been my favorite football player for a long time," Vanatta told FOX31. "They told me I couldn’t wear 18 anymore because it’s a gang number and I had to take it off.”
According to a report by the Greeley Tribune, the district's Superintendent Ranelle Lang had mixed feelings about the shirts. The "Peyton Knows" shirts were at first accepted because they had no numbers on them, then she considered sending them back to the NFL because she was worried that distributing the jerseys to students would only add fuel to the controversy, but Lang ultimately decided the shirts would be distributed to the students after all.
According to the Weld County School District 6 dress code manual, students are not allowed to wear the numbers 13, 14, 18, and their inverses, 31, 41, and 81 because of their gang affiliations. Also prohibited in the dress code are solid shirt or pants colors of red and blue and the displaying of bandanas, or shaved or "notched" eyebrows.
The district recently added a note on their dress code manual's website:
Because of the prevalence of some gangs in the Greeley area, we are vigilant about keeping gang behavior out of our schools. Unfortunately, some gangs in the area associate themselves very closely with certain colors and numbers (13, 14 and 18). Displaying these colors and numbers on clothing is a way that gang members display their affiliation, recruit new members, and create intimidation or confrontation. By banning these displays in our schools, we have reduced the presence of gang activity, intimidation, recruiting, and confrontations.
The number 18 is associated with the 18th Street Gang of southern California. Just last year, Greeley Police were able to arrest five but say they've been tracking their activity for the past 14 years.