Three Wisconsin high school basketball players were handed one-game suspensions by their school district for flashing “gang signs” in a newspaper photo, even though the sign one of the players is holding up isn’t a gang sign at all.
The photo accompanies a Sheboygan Press story about Jordan, Jamal, and Juwuan Jackson, three brothers who recently moved to the new school district and began playing basketball for Sheboygan Falls High School. In the photo, Jordan, is making a gesture with both hands that local parents said looked like a gang sign. The school superintendent agreed and suspended them each for one game.
According to a Sheboygan Press follow-up report, the school consulted local police, who also thought Jackson’s gesture was a gang sign.
The sign looks similar to one NBA superstar Paul Pierce was fined for using during a game in 2008, but Jordan Jackson says the sign had nothing to do with a gang. “When you make a three, everyone does this sign,” Jackson said. “You’ve probably seen LeBron James or someone do it. I did the three in the picture, and my little brother pointed at the camera.”
Anyone who’s watched college or pro basketball recently ought to recognize exactly what Jackson is talking about. It’s not a gang sign. It’s known as “three goggles,” and it’s been popularized by various collegiate and pro teams in the last few years. The Portland Trail Blazers think they made it famous. The University of Kentucky’s 2012 national title team flashed their three goggles on nearly every three-pointer they hit that season. Nike even made t-shirts referencing the gesture for UK fans, and House Speaker John Boehner was caught on camera flashing the sign at a Kentucky game that year (not sure, but I doubt Boehner is in the business of throwing up gang signs). Three goggles were the subject of trend story after trend story in major national news outlets.
One could speculate on the reasons why parents, police and maybe even the school superintendent thought this was a gang sign, but let’s just leave it at this: it ought to be plenty easy for Sheboygan officials to fix this. It wasn’t a gang sign. It was a gesture that is and has been common in the game of basketball, and Jordan Jackson was just a kid having a good time with his brothers.
If Sheboygan officials don’t back down, the Jacksons have an ally on their side: the American Civil Liberties Union has called on the school district to reverse the decision and says it will investigate the issue itself.