Coy Sheppard, in his final year in high school in Mississippi, is a kicker on the football team and has relatives who have survived breast cancer. His grandmother, one of those survivors, gave him a pair of pink cleats to wear for football in October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, just like the kind they’ve been wearing in the NFL in support of the same cause. Sheppard wore the cleats in a game and was harassed during it by the coach, Chris Peterson, who wanted him to take them off and not wear them again. Sheppard then wore the cleats to practice the next day and Peterson kicked him off the team for “insubordination” which threatened Sheppard’s ability to graduate. Sheppard apologized and promised not to wear the cleats again, but was refused. So he and his family brought about a lawsuit. The school board quickly caved and Sheppard was reinstated to the football team, dropping the lawsuit, and can now go through a last year of phys ed hell before graduating. The board rep claimed that the cleats were deemed as too much of a distraction, despite Sheppard having worn brightly colored cleats in other shades many times before, in a pathetic attempt to excuse a clear case of teacher homophobia and player abuse that the school didn’t bother to fix.
The downside of course is that with the lawsuit dropped, Peterson is probably not getting fired and will look for roundabout ways to torture Sheppard. The upside is that given the hopelessness of Mississippi courts on these sorts of issues, getting Sheppard’s graduation assured was the most important thing. And Sheppard can know that not only is his grandmother very proud of him, but that he is a better man with a better future awaiting him than Coach Peterson will ever have.