Football player's pink cleats spur suit

MENDENHALL, Miss. (AP) — Attorneys for a Mendenall High football player has sued the school district after being kicked off the team for wearing pink cleats to practice.

Deputy Superintendent Tom Duncan tells The Clarion-Ledger that the problem wasn’t the color of Coy Sheppard’s shoes. He said the student was kicked off the team for ignoring the orders of his coach and assistant coaches to take off the shoes.

“It had absolutely nothing to do with lack of support for breast cancer awareness,” he said.

Sheppard filed suit last week in Simpson County Chancery Court. The lawsuit asks the court to reinstate Sheppard to the football team and clear his disciplinary record. The suit also asks for any monetary damages to be awarded to the American Cancer Society.

School board President Larry Cockrell said he hopes for a resolution of the dispute that would return the boy to the team.

“I wish it could have been handled differently where there could have been some compromise,” Cockrell said. “I think all the kid wants is to play football and finish out the year, but I know the kids have to do what the coach says.

“I’m not taking either side, I just hope it could be worked out,” he said. “From what I hear, he’s a pretty good kicker.”

According to the lawsuit, which gives only one side of the legal argument, football coach Chris Peterson dressed down Sheppard, the 17-year-old senior kicker, during an Oct. 8 football game for wearing pink cleats in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

When Sheppard arrived at practice the next week wearing the shoes, Peterson dismissed him from the squad, said Oliver Diaz Jr., an attorney representing Sheppard.

Because students in the Simpson County School District earn academic credit for participating in sports, Diaz said the dismissal has put Sheppard’s future at the school in question.

“His graduation may be in jeopardy for something as silly as not being allowed to wear pink cleats,” he said.

Duncan said the coach told Sheppard he would be allowed to make up his lost PE credit and graduate on time, “so that has never been an issue.”

Diaz said Sheppard had worn cleats of other colors in the past without incident and a number of players wore pink athletic gear to the Oct. 8 game.

Diaz said Coy Sheppard has apologized and promised to leave the pink shoes at home, but so far school officials have not budged.

The Associated Press