JONESBORO, Ark. — A cross placed on the back of the Arkansas State University football team’s helmets will be modified after a complaint.
Athletic Director Terry Mohajir said Wednesday afternoon an attorney contacted the school concerned about a religious symbol on a public university’s equipment. Mohajir said the decision to place the cross with the letters M.O. and B.W. came from the players and coaches. Player Markel Owens was murdered and equipment manager Barry Weyer, Jr. died in a car accident after last season.
Mohajir says after speaking with the university’s legal counsel they will modify the sticker removing any religious symbols, but keeping the initials.
In a statement released by the university, Mohajir stated:
“I am 100 percent in support of our coaches’ and players’ expression of faith, as well as their choice to honor the two individuals associated with our team who passed away by voluntarily wearing a cross decal on the back of their helmets. Unfortunately, we have received a complaint that use of the cross violates the Constitutional prohibition against separation of church and state.”
“After consulting with University counsel, we have been advised to either modify the decal or remove it completely. Thus, in order to ensure that we are in full compliance with Constitutional law, we will be modifying the decal to still honor the two individuals who are no longer with us.”
In January, Owens and his stepfather were shot and killed during a home invasion in Jackson, Tennessee. Three suspects were arrested and charged in that case.
Weyer was an equipment manager with the football team before he died in a vehicle crash along with three others in early June.
The parents of one of the men honored by those crosses say they’re heartbroken and that they never wanted this to become controversial.
The group Freedom From Religion led the fight to remove the crosses, saying it was an inappropriate way to honor Weyer and Owens.
Those crosses will be modified to where only the horizontal line of the cross with the initials inside will remain.