The Freedom From Religion Foundation celebrated its victory in
removing all things religious from the football uniforms of a
combined Catholic / public school team.
Making as little sense to many as removing the "G"
from the Green Bay Packers' helmets, a Wisconsin co-op football
team composed of the private Catholic Messmer High School and the
public Shorewood High School was forced to remove its new team logo
last fall. The logo affixed to the team's helmets (right) mixed the
images of both schools -- the Shorewood greyhound and Messmer's
bishop's hat with a cross.
As a sophomore student, Sam Pagenkopf designed the new logo,
which was approved along with about 20 other logo proofs by both
schools' administrations. More than a decade after the
Messmer/Shorewood high school football team formed in 2000, a
graphic arts class project formed to create a shared logo for the
And the reason for scrapping the student's logo that was already
affixed to the helmets?
It "offended" a mother and her two boys who attend
A $1,000 reward given to both Mayan and Balen Essak (top left)
for their role in getting rid of the cross -- and a generic logo
replacement having nothing to do with either school, simply reading
"2012 PLAYOFFFS" (bottom left).
Ecstatic over the off-the-field victory, the Freedom From
Religion Foundation applauded the eradication of the cross from the
logo, claiming that its placement on the uniforms constituted the
team's endorsement of a religion and thus violated the so-called
"separation of church and state."
Leaving a cross offensive ... removing it
The local newspaper, the Journal Sentinel, implied that
by affixing the new logo -- which doesn't symbolize anything about
either school's name or mascot -- and by eradicating the cross from
the uniform, the team is no longer violating the U.S. Constitution
or offending students, faculty or community members.
"Sure to offend nobody, the new logo clearly separates church
and state and served as an opportunity for officials from Messmer
and Shorewood to talk … about the respect both school communities
have for each other," the paper reported.
The local media outlet also expressed that the head of the
Catholic school was not happy with the decision to remove any
vestige of his school's Christian heritage, but that there was
virtually nothing he could do about it (to symbolize the school's
"Brother Bob Smith, president of Messmer Catholic Schools, said
that while he'd like some image representative of his school's
faith on the helmet, he understood there may not be a way to do
that," the Sentinel announced.
But according to Superintendent Marty Lexmond, the thought of
the logo being seen as an endorsement of religion or as an
expression of faith never even crossed the mind of either
"[The notion that the logo contained religious symbolism] did
not occur to any of the involved parties as possibly problematic,
given the longstanding relationship with Messmer," Lexmond told the
Shorewood School Board.
After the board discussed the fate of the logo, they voted
unanimously during an October 2012 meeting that it had to be
removed within a week.
Board member Michael Mishlove reasoned that the mere fact that a
cross has anything to do with Christianity warranted its immediate
removal from school property, as he sees such images on
school-issued materials as unconstitutional.
"It's clearly a Christian cross," Mishlove told
ShorewoodNOW.com. "I think it's inappropriate to have on a uniform
or any sort of school-authorized clothing, as I think it could be
viewed as an endorsement."
The taxpayer cost of replacing the already attached logos to 72
helmets? Matt Joynt, the principal of Shorewood High School had no
And how offensive was the scrapped mixed emblem to the football
players? A number of them who were asked were reported to be
indifferent about the entire controversy, noting that they had no
problem with the bishop hat and greyhound design and that they were
also fine with the rash and meaningless replacement logo, as
"Sure, we lost a little bit of our personality [because of the
new design]," Messmer/Shorewood student football player Alec
Grimmer commented. "But it's about this season now."
According to Drake Zortman, the team's football coach, school
officials are planning to get students from both high schools to
assist in designing a new permanent football helmet logo for this
upcoming football season.
He made a statement implying that everyone's beliefs and points
of view are welcome on the football field -- as long as they have
nothing to do with religion.
"We are certainly sensitive to all diverse points of view,"
Zortman expressed. "We are one unit, always striving toward one
As school reform measures pick up steam, millions of Americans
in all 50 states took part this week in a host of National School
Choice Week events.