Michael Kelley Receives Flood of Support Following Varsity Letter Controversy
As The Mighty previously covered, a controversy has been brewing at a high school in Wichita, Kansas after school officials asked a student with Down syndrome and autism to remove his letterman jacket because he was wearing a varsity letter. The student, Michael Kelley, is not a varsity athlete, but does participate in special needs basketball. However, at his school, students with special needs cannot currently earn varsity letters.
Kelley’s story has gone viral and a hashtag called #GiveThemLetters is trending with people from all over the world voicing their opinions.
As a former Varsity Athlete I support Michael Kelly and Special Needs athletes everywhere. TEAM is TEAM no matter what #GiveThemLetters
— Ed Williams (@VTRaiderBooster) March 30, 2015
The fact that they are disabled for life and still can play a sport at an advanced level the district should #GiveThemLetters
— Jacob Welch (@JacobWelch16) March 30, 2015
#GiveThemLetters !!!! Wow– what would it cost anyone to honor everyone of our kids??
— Kristie Carter (@CarterChick) March 30, 2015
#GiveThemLetters because a special needs athlete is not less than a varsity athlete. My heart hurts that this is even a debate.
— Anne Hacker (@annehacker) March 28, 2015
Because Michael is a person too; who deserves to have the same respect & acceptance as any other high school athlete. #GiveThemLetters
— Madison VanBurkleo (@madsfaye) March 27, 2015
After hearing about the controversy, Adrian Griffin, a former East High athlete and a current assistant coach for the Chicago Bulls, decided to show his support for Kelley, KSN reported. Griffin donated some autographed sports paraphernalia to be auctioned off with the proceeds going toward Kelley’s special needs basketball team.
“Donating my jersey, a 2014-2015 signed Chicago Bulls ball and a Derek Rose bobble head to East High’s special needs basketball team for auction for new basketball jerseys,” Griffin wrote on Instagram.
“I can not tell you in words how it makes me feel that someone who does not even know my son or these other students would step out and stand up for them like this,” Kelley’s mom, Jolinda Kelley, told KSN News.
Amidst a lot of criticism, including a Change.org petition with over 45,000 signatures, East High School Principal Ken Thiessen released this statement saying that Kelley has been allowed to wear his jacket in the school hallways since the incident, and that the district is in the process of creating league-wide standards for all high school athletes to earn letters.
Hear more on the story in the video below:
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