Amelia Mornes-Njoka thought her son, Austen, was in good hands when he played with the Special Olympics flag football team in Lewisville, Texas. The 21-year-old with autism has been a part of the team for eight years. But when he came home earlier this month wearing a Confederate flag hat, both mother and son had to rethink their trust.
“Everybody just kind of went into an uproar because he comes in wearing this hat like it’s just a regular hat,” Mornes-Njoka told local news station CBS-DFW.
Austen Mornes said he had asked one of his coaches about the Confederate flag on the hat, the significance of which he didn’t know.
“He told me, like, put it on, keep it on, show it to your mom and stuff,” Mornes told CBS-DFW. “I said, ‘What does the flag stand for?’ I said, ‘I don’t have no clue,’ and he says, ‘Freedom.’”
His mother was immediately concerned about why three white coaches thought it was appropriate to give this hat to her black son and mislead him about its meaning.
“My worst feeling was they were sitting there watching him and probably snickering or laughing under their breath,” Mornes-Njoka told the station.
The Lewisville Independent School District reportedly acknowledged to CBS-DFW that the coach had been wrong in giving the hat to Mornes, but did not elaborate on whether anything would be done about the situation.
“The adult volunteer, who is not an LISD employee, was wearing a cap the former student expressed interest in,” LISD said in a statement. “The student took the cap home. The volunteer coach contacted the parents to discuss what happened, and believed the situation had been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.”
Mornes said going back to play on the team is “no good,” and his mother expressed a similar sentiment.
“You trust these people with your kid who has a disability,” she said. “You know and as far as I knew, I knew them well enough for my son to be around them without my supervision.”
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