Arlington school officials ban Martin High football shirts

Senior football players at Arlington Martin High School have been instructed not to wear their spirit T-shirts to school because the slogan can be perceived as having a double meaning — one about being tough on the football field and one about rape.

The shirts, distributed in August, display black flags with skulls and swords and the phrase, “We take what we want.” Below the flag in white letters is “Shhhhhhh, just let it happen.”

This month, Martin’s student newspaper, The Warrior Post, ran an editorial after students expressed concern about the potential innuendo in the slogan, opinion editor Sherilyn Morales said.

“The shirt’s main message is to state the player’s idea that there is no need for the opponent to put up a fight in letting our team take the ball away from them,” the editorial said. “But can this saying be easily misunderstood? Yes. Though it certainly was not the goal of the shirt, its slogan connoted rape culture.”

Morales said she wrote the editorial after discussion among editors and the newspaper’s faculty adviser signed off on the editorial. It came out on Friday.

Since then, students reaction has been mixed, especially on social media after NBC5 broke the story Wednesday, she said Thursday.

“There were some that thought we were taking a personal hit on the football team,” Morales said. “We got mixed feedback.”

Martin Coach Bob Wager said the students designed the shirts at a pool party at a student’s house during the summer.

“I’ve seen the shirts several times since July, and not once did it cross my mind that it was inappropriate,” Wager said.

Booster club President Kevin White said Martin’s senior football players design T-shirts every year. This year, 40 shirts were handed out to the seniors in August.

White, who said he has been a member of the booster club for several years, said students have used the phrase “We take what we want,” many times before to refer to beating other teams on the field.

Wager said: “One of the things we’ve done really well [at Martin] throughout the years is winning the take-away battle. In fact, when you leave our locker room, there’s only one billboard on the wall and it simply says ‘take aways.’ The act of piracy, taking what you want. What we want is the football.”

As for “Shhhhhhh, just let it happen”?

Wager and White both said they thought that referred to the Warriors doing all the “talking on the field” with their skill.

After five straight wins, Martin (6-2, 5-0) sits alone atop the District 4-6A leaderboard, and are expected to get their ninth consecutive playoff berth under Wager.

“It’s sickening to me that [T-shirt slogan] was misconstrued,” White said. “And it’s weird that it has been out for so long and just came up.”

Wager said he wasn’t aware the school newspaper was going to write an editorial criticizing the shirts for its allusion to “rape culture.”

“I have a wife, I have a daughter, I have a mother. Our players have sisters and cousins. It’s unwarranted. Our kids deserve better, especially from our own school,” Wager said.

School district spokeswoman Leslie Johnston in an email that district officials believe the team did not have bad intentions, but nevertheless, the T-shirt has been banned.

“They were never intended or thought to have any meaning other than a football-related meaning — taking yardage, the ball, etc.,” Johnston wrote.

“When this other view was brought to the school’s attention, the students were instructed not to wear the shirts.”

Staff writer Jared L. Christopher contributed to this report.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram