Peyton Manning’s popularity in Colorado has been immediate, and intense.
But if you want to support him, don’t wear his jersey to school in Greeley.
One family is upset because their 8-year-old son was forced to change out of his new Manning jersey because it doesn’t comply with the school district’s dress code designed to minimize gang activity.
The Greeley-Evans School District has banned the numbers 13, 14, 18 as well as their inverses (31, 41 and 81) because of the ties those numbers have to area gangs.
Pam Vanatta told CBS4 she was “speechless” that her son Konnor couldn’t wear the jersey his grandmother bought him as a gift.
“I knew that Greeley had a gang problem but I didn’t think in any event it should affect someone that’s in third grade,” she said.
School officials say no one objected to the policy — which also bans students from shaving notches in their eyebrows or displaying red or blue bandanas — until Manning signed with the Broncos.
“Now, all of a sudden, it is a big deal,” district spokesman Roger Fiedler told the Denver Post. “Until yesterday there haven’t been any concerns raised about our dress code.
“It’s unfortunate that it has become a big deal. It is not a new policy. It has nothing against [the Broncos]. Mr. Manning is a great role model. We would hope people would understand it has nothing to do with him or the Broncos.”
The numbers 13 and 14 are linked with the Sureño and Norteño gangs, and the 18th Street gang is invoked in the policy as well. Fiedler said the policy has been on the books since the 2008-09 school year, and has been effective.
“Since we did put this in place, we have had a reduction in the reports or incidents of students displaying gang attire and affiliation,” he said.
Ostensibly, the ban also covers wide receiver Brandon Stokley (14), cornerback Omar Bolden (31) and tight end Joel Dreessen (81), though they aren’t pushing nearly the amount of merchandise Manning does.
And as tempting as it is to run local bureaucrats up the flagpole for over-regulating innocent school kids, the reality is that gang violence is a much greater concern than whether little Konnor is able to show his pride in his favorite player — which he can do as soon as he gets off the bus.
And if Konnor’s mom’s not OK with that, tell her to invest in a Champ Bailey or a Matt Prater jersey next time.