A cheerleading team in North Carolina has been put on probation after posing with a banner endorsing President Donald Trump at a school sports match.
The school, North Stanly High School, bars the display or distribution of political advertisements on campus.
A spokesman for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) told US media that the probation was a warning and “not a form of punishment”.
Some decried the NCHSAA’s move, calling it an infringement of free speech.
According to a statement from the school board, a student attending the American football match brought the flag into the event and took the picture before the game began.
“Stanly County Schools respects the rights of its students, staff, and visitors to express their opinions in a respectful manner on their own time,” the statement said.
But it added that political endorsements are prohibited at school events, so “that all students, staff and visitors are able to attend school events in an environment that promotes students and not a particular political viewpoint”.
‘Bring all your MAGA gear’
The photo, posted on social media in August, was of North Stanly High School’s “American Night”, where students were encouraged to dress patriotically, according to the Stanly News & Press.
“We took a picture of the Trump flag because he is our president and it had red, white and blue on it,” one of the students pictured told local news station Fox 46 Charlotte.
The team risks a fine or suspension from the NCHSAA if they make any other political displays at school events.
A Facebook event has been scheduled for Friday in support of the cheerleaders.
The team “has been wrongly put on probation,” the event description says. “Please bring all your Trump and MAGA gear and lets throw our support behind the North Stanley High School cheerleaders.”