(SPANISH FORT, Ala.) - Spanish Fort High School is receiving some unwanted attention after its big football matchup against Daphne High School this week. The game was nationally televised on ESPN, and so was a controversial sign held by a group of students in the stands.
The sign read: Purple? Man, that's GAY. Purple is one of Daphne's team colors. A screen shot of the banner made headlines Wednesday on Yahoo, NBC Sports and espn.com, among other websites.
"It was a gimmick to get national attention, and they were successful at that," says Baldwin County Schools Spokesman Terry Wilhite. "What they wont be successful at is doing it again."
Wilhite says the school district isn't taking the sign lightly, and wants to send a clear message that intolerant behavior is unacceptable.
"After the game, the students were spoken to. And then back when school resumed the students were again spoken to by the principal and he, believe me, will carry out a disciplinary action," Wilhite says.
Some say the incident is not so much about homophobia as it is about an offensive word choice that's been perpetuated for decades. We got in touch with Cyd Zeigler, founder of Outsports.com. Outsports is an innovative website dedicated to covering the gay sports community.
"They're not trying to pay the other team a compliment, they're trying to insult them," Zeigler says. "And to use the word 'gay' as an insult, it's demeaning and incredibly offensive."
Local 15 News asked Zeigler for his perspective on where the blame should fall for the banner and the resulting fallout.
"I think the mistake is to blame people," he says. "Instead of trying to figure out who to blame, let's figure out how to fix it."
The school district insists the banner was a regrettable decision on the part of a handful of kids, not an indicator of a homophobic mentality among the student body.
"Something like that happens, and you have to tend to it," Wilhite says. "Is it an overall problem? No, not at all."
Wilhite did not give specifics on how the students who held the banner will be disciplined. The decision will be up to the Spanish Fort principal.