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North Vs. South Takes New Meaning In Rebel Flag Squabble

November 9, 1985 GMT

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas (AP) _ When North battles South in Grand Prairie, it’s normally just a matter of two high schools squaring off on the football field.

But a contest between South Grand Prairie and Grand Prairie became embroiled in another struggle - a black player’s refusal to take the field under South Grand Prairie’s Confederate flag symbol.

The flag remains an innocent symbol to many white southerners, but an emblem of racism to many blacks.

About 40 people, most of them black, marched quietly Friday night across from Grand Prairie High School’s Gopher Stadium and carried U.S. flags and placards that read ″No More Racial Slurs; No More Rebel Flag″ and ″Use the U.S. or Texas Flag.″

″It’s strictly non-violent,″ said Lee Alcorn, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement for Colored People. ″That’s why we chose this particular street. There’s less traffic and it decreases the potential for violence.″

South Grand Prairie High School’s rebel flag flew high over the Warriors’ heads when they ran onto the field at the start of the game. Spectators waved about 40 miniature Confederate flags when the school song was played. The flag has been a school symbol since it was founded.

Although team players voted 36-6 Friday night to keep the flag, they did make one concession: instead of the traditional blue and red, the flag bore the school colors of red and gold.

Bob Cherry, a member of the South Grand Prairie Warriors’ Quarterback Club, said the club had considered passing out small Confederate battle flags to their boosters and ″walk right through them (pickets) with the flags.″ No one bothered the demonstrators.

″Everybody is blowing this thing out of proportion,″ Cherry said. ″They are creating a monster out of nothing.″

Blacks make up 8.5 percent of the school’s student body.

Friday’s annual contest between the two schools, won by Grand Prairie 13-0, also included a kickoff of Grand Prairie’s sesquicentennial featuring the six flags that have flown over Texas.

It all started last month when Fred Coleman Jr., a black sophomore at South Grand Prairie, claimed he had been kicked off the team because he declined to run onto the field under the Civil War banner.

The ″only people that honor the flag are the Ku Klux Klan,″ said Coleman’s father, Fred Coleman Sr. ″We’re asking the taxpayers to support a racist idea.″

The school’s head football coach said Coleman was kicked off the team for a number of infractions. But any other reasons behind the 15-year-old’s departure soon were lost in the debate over the flag.

The local NAACP chapter failed to persuade Superintendent Hobbs Williams to ban use of the flag.

Williams said the flag symbolized school spirit and nothing else. The school adopted the Confederate flag as a symbol of its rivalry with Grand Prairie, its northern neighbor.

″I think it’s just a battle flag. That’s all. I don’t think they should be making such a big deal out of it,″ said junior Gary Odom, 16.

Lisa Hemby, a 17-year-old senior, said Thursday that a friend who is black was in favor of the flag.

″But today he found a note in his locker with a lot of profanity on it that said he should be against the flag,″ she said.