High School Football Players Kicked Off Team for Wearing White Hoods, Burning Cross in Photo

“I was just mostly shocked and I wanted to ask them why they did it,” said Kylan Smallwood, the team’s quarterback and only Black varsity player.

Original image posted by attendees to social media.

Five football players at Creston Community High School in a predominantly white Iowa town chose to wear white hoods evoking the Ku Klux Klan, wave a Confederate flag and burn a cross, then take a photo and share it on social media. The racist picture has gone viral, and the students have been kicked off the team.

Creston Community High School officials became aware of the photo when it began circulating online Wednesday and said the photo was not taken on school grounds.

School officials said the students were disciplined, but because they are minors, they did not reveal the extent of the discipline citing privacy laws, according to The Des Moines Register.

However, coach Brian Morrison disclosed that he kicked the five players off the football team.

“I’ll be honest, I was appalled,” Morrison told the Register. “It was very disturbing. Just taking the kids out of the equation, just looking at the photo, it’s something that you see on national television, and it’s one of those things that just curls your stomach.

“With us having an African American quarterback on our football team, you know, that’s where your mind goes first, to ‘How’s he doing?’ It is a lot to put on a kid’s plate.”

Kylan Smallwood, 16, is in his junior year at the high school. He’s the team’s starting quarterback and the only Black athlete on the varsity team. He also plays on the varsity basketball team.

“I would see that kind of stuff like Charlottesville and think that’s pretty messed up,” Smallwood told the Register. “I never thought that would happen to our small town.”

The KKK and other white supremacist groups, including neo-Nazis, held a “Unite the Right” protest in Charlottesville, Va., last month, which turned deadly. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a white supremacist crashed his car into counter-protesters.

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“I thought these guys were my friends,” Smallwood said of his former teammates. “I’ve been to some of their houses before.

“I was just mostly shocked, and I wanted to ask them why they did it. But, I haven’t had the chance to yet. I was shocked and pretty mad to be honest.”

Smallwood’s father is Black and from Arkansas, and his mother is a white native of Creston. He told the local news channel WHO-HD that the actions of the five students do not take away from the bond he feels with his teammates.

“We are together, we are one,” he said. “Those other five are not part of the team, so it’s just us. We are family.”

Smallwood and Morrison’s interview with The Des Moines Register:

According to Census.gov, Creston has approximately 7,829 residents, who are 96 percent white, 2.3 percent Latino and 1 percent Black; Asians and American Indians comprise less than 1 percent of the population. The town’s high school is a part of the Creston Community school district, which only has 6 percent minority students, according to KCCI News.

On Friday, Jamie and Megan Travis, parents of one of the students in the photo, submitted a statement to the Creston News Advertiser apologizing for their son’s actions.

The Travises said, in part:

“We do not condone the behavior that was expressed in the recent photo that was disseminated throughout various media sources. We understand that our son has conducted himself in a way that is inappropriate and has caused disruption in the community. Our son recognizes his poor judgment and respectfully asks forgiveness from his classmates, the school and the community. The photo in no way reflects our family values.”

The couple also stated they agree with their son being removed from the football team.

Although the school considers the photograph of the five students a violation of school policy, Union County Attorney Tim Kenyon said the photo is not criminal.

Kenyon released a statement explaining that the photograph “falls into the category of protected speech by the virtue of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

“The Union County Sheriff’s Office and local law enforcement are generally aware of the incident to which you refer,” Kenyon said. “At this juncture, the school has considered this to be a violation of school policy.

“County officials have not been contacted nor requested to take any official action. While I recognize that individuals were likely offended by the image shown in the photograph, unless or until there becomes an issue of specific conduct showing that the images were directed at individuals (or groups of individuals) for a specific purpose, criminal statutes do not apply.

“The photograph itself falls into the category of protected speech by the virtue of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. We are continuing to monitor the situation.

“While I have personal opinions as [to] the inappropriate nature of the image, it remains that I am professionally obligated to follow the statutes as created by the Iowa Legislature. The fact that persons are offended by the image is not, per se, a sufficient basis to initiate any criminal investigation nor any criminal charges.”

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63 comments


  • As I feel so sympathetic to the quarterback , I also see his naivety . He just thought that he was just one of the guys however ; The coaches naivety is what surprises me , even when you consider the towns percentage of white versus the percentage of minorities . I’m Always touched when people say ” They are Shocked ” or ” They didn’t know ” .

    • He’s a 16 year old kid surrounded by people he’s known forever, You expect him to be born with the insight of a Black Panther activist from back in the day?

    • The phrase “I was shocked is” alt-right jargon for “I’m going to pretend I didn’t know this was going on.”

      • Right… imho, the reply should have been, “We are disgusted, appalled, ashamed and shocked by the hateful and evil actions of our son. HE WILL APOLOGIZE, and HE will be responsible for making the necessary amends – to others in the community, and ESPECIALLY to his TEAMMATE. We are so ashamed of his behavior and need to prayerfully consider where we went wrong, in raising him…AND HOW TO REVERSE THE DAMAGE.”

    • I agree about the coach. The kid is just a kid, and one who is biracial at that. Some biracial children with white parents are raised with an idea that the world is colorblind and will treat them accordingly. Oftentimes, it is up to the parent of color to lead the part of their education that describes how the world will actually see them.

    • I grew up in a town mostly white. 99% of the people there were good and not racist. I believe this is a good teaching moment that most people are good and can’t be blanketed under the racist blanket. We as a nation need to stop hating each other and realize it’s our diversity that’s our strength. Our multi cultural roots that makes us so appealing to the world. Our freedom to pursue happiness and prosperity which makes us great.

  • What they did was definitely wrong and glad they were kicked off the football team. However,the son should apologize not the parents for the son.

    • I agree with Pam. The parents should not speak for their son…. and it should be in person – not a written statement. A person’s eye’s, manner of speaking, and the way they carry themselves often speaks volumes and would backup the apology and it’s sincerity or lack of it. The parents are probably well-meaning – but are not doing their child a favor by letting him off the hook like that. The kid might not be sorry at all and is simply hiding behind his horrified parents.

      All in all – in this day in age…. this is truly horrible. My heart goes out to his teammate who is obviously having a difficult time dealing with the betrayal of those he felt he were his teammates and friends – having been to their houses in the past.

    • I think it was absolutely paramount for the parents to apologize. We always say when kids act like this, some or all of it is learned at home. The parents stepped up and apologized to the greater community and tried to assure the community that it was not their values that their son’s actions reflected.

    • Being kicked off the team won’t change anything . When you’re taught to be who you are in your early childhood years , your not subject to change because you received a slap on the wrist . It’s sort of like , you can shoot an unarmed person in the head who posed no threat to you and you receive a paid vacation care of the family and friends of the victim who pays your salary . Then the people who look like you find one hundred excuses for why the victim did something to perpetuate him winding up dead , other than the color of his skin and the non pigmentation of ours .

      • The guy who killed Heather with his car said nothing but his mother said she knew ” Nothing ” ! Just like Dylan Roofs fine parents .

          • I disagree! Good parents can raise bad kids. That’s like saying black parents who work hard and their kids get mixed up in gangs killing each other are somehow responsible.

            I had a cousin may he RIP who, out of seven kids, was the only one who got busted dealing heroin and getting involved in shootings over drug territory and product. The other kids got good jobs and careers and went to college and became business people and a lawyer. The other apples fell from the tree and he was the bad one.

            Bad people can produce good kids, and vice versa. And do parents know everything their kids are up too? My experience as a teacher and that of my brother says emphatically “NO!”

    • I think it should be mutual. Both parties are at fault. Regardless of what these “shocked” parents are saying, I live in Iowa, where it’s an accepted but unspoken right to be prejudiced.

      • What??? What in the world are you talking about? I have lived in Iowa my entire life, and it is NOT “an accepted but unspoken right to be prejudiced” among people I know. In small towns, where there are a lot of small minds, that may be true. But DO NOT label the entire state like that.

          • The ONLY people who can remove Rep. King who is completely vile is his constituents. you don’t think there is a TON of us Iowans who want people like him out? while you’re busy lumping the entire state as racist, remember we are the state that propelled Obama to the presidency here in 08. he won by a landslide. yes we have bigots in our state, a lot of them are anti immigration fanatics due to our large Hispanic population but what these kids chose to do is not normal goings on in our state. Lots of poor, uneducated Trump supporters in our midst BUT they are also the kind whose morals and values shift with the wind. Now their anger has been stoked and sadly these types of things are becoming commonplace throughout our country. and it makes THIS Iowan sick.

    • I agree with you in part, Pam. The parents apologized presumably because he’s a minor and they’re responsible, to some degree, for his behavior. However, they should’ve had the son apologize as well and not shelter him from backlash resulting from his behavior.

  • Posted it on social media?!?! I’m sure they thought the community would not have an issue with the pic!!!

    • People post all kinds of stupid things. Sorry but honestly, I think they thought it would be some kind of ironic joke, like “We’re not racist, this will be so funny.”

      I have a very good friend that was in a band with, stayed at his parents’ house, he at mine, and we traveled in a van doing a do-it-yourself tour with our band, so I got to know him very well.

      15 years before, in college, he drove by with a megaphone and said, “There’s a nigger” and laughed. This was in 1981. I knew he was kidding and didn’t pay it no mind because I learned early to not react to every perceived slight or comment.

      Two days later he went to a work shop about race and, with tears in his eyes, apologizing for it saying that he had been raised in Switzerland and didn’t understand race in America. BTW his parents, when they were in Atlanta, were the first whites to go to an integrated swimming pool and were subjected to all kinds of taunts and threats.

      In other words, even though we would like to believe it, things aren’t always so cut and dried and easy to label.

      • Being raised in Switzerland gives you an reason for being ignorant, tearfully apologizing is seeking forgiveness and redemption.

        In the state of Steve King, in the country of Trump, in the aftermath of Chancelloville, with the circumstances of having a Black quarterback in a 97% white state, it’s cut and dried racism.

        Tolerance of terror is taking responsibility for what happens next.

  • I live in Iowa and unfortunately this doesn’t surprise me at all. The small rural towns here are still thinking, talking and acting racist and they pass it down generation after generation. For anyone to say they don’t know why their kids do things like this because they certainly don’t behave that way is either a liar or they voted for mr trump. Endorsing and supporting him is the same thing as bringing out a white hood and asking your kid to light your torch.
    The country is slowly becoming acutely aware of what it’s like to have a neo-nationalist president with KKK blood running thru his veins. (He got it honest… Daddy Trump showed him the right way to burn a cross and make it look like he’s trying to put the fire out)
    These kids are products of their parents, their president, and the old white politicians (yes I’m including bean-walkerJoni Ernst in that description) who run this state.
    The country has been given permission by it’s leader to hate and it’s beginning to show.
    Ps Neighboring state Missouri actually has “welcome to — (insert town name)” signs that have KKK slogans scratched in warning blacks to stay out or else.

    • Wow. You doubled down on your “Iowa” comments, so I’m going to double-down on my outrage about it. Your blanket statements about people in Iowa offends me terribly. There are people who believe and behave this way – but the entire state DOES NOT.

    • Although not a resident of Iowa, being from Illinois, I’ve known many people from there/who live there. Your sentiment is shared. Then there are people like Steve King who are representatives that double-down on the hate. Unfortunately, Iowa is far from the only state with often-elected Steve King type folks.

  • I suspect that these are not “bad” or intentionally mean-spirited kids.

    This seems to me like just one more example of the kind of “tone-deafness” that allows good, Christian people throughout our nation, especially throughout the American South, to see absolutely NO problem with insisting that there be centrally-located, public memorials to their ancestors/heroes (and to the times in which they lived).

    These good people seem to be oblivious to the reality that the people (and the times) they honor so publicly were complicit in — if not directly responsible for — the enslavement and oppression of the ancestors of OTHERS of their Christian brothers and sisters, people they claim to love and respect so much (i.e., the ones with obvious African ancestry).

    As the saying goes, “There are none so blind and those who WILL NOT see.”

    • No.

      I can put a white hood on my dog and still have a good dog. A dog is incapable of knowing what it means.

      No American can put a white hood on their head and burn a cross and still be a “good” person.

      I don’t care how stupid or ignorant a person is. They had to be aware that the white hood and burning cross meant something or they wouldn’t have done it.

      • Exactly. They knew what they were doing so let’s not make excuses for their behavior.

        • Did I make excuses for bad behavior? I don’t think so!

          I DID try to understand, though. I DID try to be fair instead of reckless. Is that EVER a mistake? I’m beginning to think that on DiversityInc.com, it MAY be…

          • You best understand Nazis when you’re in a concentration camp. You best understand the KKK when your head is in a noose.

            Together Nazis, white supremacists and Confederates have killed tens of millions and terrorized hundreds of millions.

            Parsing evil is a fool’s errand and imagining good in evil deeds is making yourself an ally of evil.

          • This is reply to Luke Visconti’s comment of 11:51 am on 9/13/2017 which, like his last reply to one of my comments, did not include the option for me to directly reply to it.

            If Mr. Visconti is able and willing to explain to me exactly HOW I have been “parsing evil,” thereby revealing myself to be a fool on an errand and an “ally of evil” — that is, if he’s willing to make the effort to do something OTHER THAN make the easy pronouncements that, in MY experience, typify white privilege, then I’ll be happy to submit to his attempts to “school” me.

            If not, maybe I should just follow his example and pronounce HIM a “bad” person whose evil has been on full display throughout his dismissive, know-it-all-so-I-don’t-have-to-listen-to-YOU dialogue with me. (I’m not expecting THIS comment to make the cut, but we’ll see, I guess.)

            Sent from my iPad
            “To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.” — R. L. Stevenson

        • EMM: Your right they knew!!
          Just like the boys on my sons team knew when they vandalized his car and poured urine on him when he was sleeping at an FCA camp. Even after he took them to church and brought them to our home to stay and hang out to eat and relax! He thought they were his friend!! My son was their QB and had the most throwing yds in our area and was #3 in the state! Now his senior yr he can’t play ball because I transferred him from that horrible place where the coaches alliowed this to happen!

    • That is your opinion, and I respect it. My opinion – as someone who has been subjected to this kind of behavior – is that they are not good people at all.

      They are entitled.
      They have a superiority/inferiority complex (however you look at it)
      They refuse to learn
      They are always right.

      With so many actual good people around the world, I have no need to justify the “goodness” of bigots and their uneducated offspring.

      • I think we all need to take a breath and think about what our standard is for a “good” person.

        AND we need to consider how WE might measure up to such a standard.

        If we are so quick to label others as “not good,” or “bad,” or “deplorable” people based on ONE thing that we know that they’ve done or said, are we ALSO ready to embrace being judged by such a standard ourselves?

        Are YOU quite happy and content to be judged — and likely dismissed/condemned as a “not good” person — based ONLY on one of the worst things you’ve ever done in this life? Do YOU want YOUR stupidity or YOUR tone-deafness (and I’d be VERY surprised if you don’t have shortcomings that YOU are oblivious to, and I doubt that you’re as “good” and above reproach as you may THINK you are) to be viewed as nothing less than hatred and malice that are the most reliable and abundant fruit of the abyss that is your so-called heart?

        One reason we don’t treat kids like adults in our criminal justice system (okay, with the not-rare-enough exception of SOME Black teenagers) is that, in these allegedly enlightened times, we know that the teenaged brain is not yet fully developed in all the ways that a mature adult’s brain should be. And, accordingly, we make allowances. We do the same for those with a deficit in cognitive abilities that has resulted in unhappy outcomes. Beyond concessions like these, there’s the reality that NONE of us is perfect, and NONE of us is immune to doing or saying stupid things that, whether immediately or not, we truly regret.

        As for ME, I’m trying hard — with limited success — to see people who do sh*t like this as the complex human beings they probably are, people who are MORE than the worst thing they’ve ever done (or the ‘merely bad’ things they sometimes, though not ALWAYS, do).

        And I hope other people will be willing to cut ME the same slack… Because I know I’m going to need it, at some point. How about YOU?

          • Oh, please!

            You’re still missing my point, Luke. (And I think you forgot to take a breath before you responded to what I wrote.)

            I’m not trying to “build bridges” with neo-Nazis and neo-Confederates, and I’m not being an apologist for truly hateful and bad people. And I DO believe that hateful, bad people exist.

            My goal is to see things as they are and to call them EXACTLY what they are. That MAY explain, in part, why my favorite Aretha Franklin song just might be “Rock Steady” – because of the way she encourages us to, “Let’s call this song exactly what it is!”

            I’m simply trying to pursue personal integrity, Luke. I’m trying to live with boldness AND kindness. I’m trying to treat others as I myself want to be treated: with kindness, respect, compassion, and FAIRNESS. You know — the ol’ Golden Rule. I’m trying to be the kind of Christian who avoids making Christianity look like a malignant sham. I’m trying to be the kind of Progressive or Liberal who is not aptly dismissed as a self-righteous hypocrite who may be just as big a part of the problem as the Conservatives and racists that he’s so quick to condemn.

            So, I’ll say it again: Just as I would not like to be judged based SOLELY on the bad things I’VE done and said in this life, I’m trying my best to avoid judging other people based SOLELY on the bad things THEY do or say. Being harsh in my judgments of “the other” when I typically cut myself and members of my “tribe” some slack in similar situations just seems unfair to me. Not to mention just plain wrong. AND dangerous.

            A lot of the situations that have resulted in Black men like me being killed, hurt, or otherwise mistreated by law enforcement officials have been due (as best as I can tell) to them judging — or should that be MISjudging? — us WAY too quickly, and WAY too harshly, and in ways that they DON’T judge the folks who are part of their “tribe” (or who LOOK enough like members of their tribe to warrant getting the benefit of the doubt).

            I don’t aspire to the kind of bias and “certainty” and name-calling that can so easily lead to irretrievably bad outcomes. And when I see it, wherever I see it, I hope I will be able to see it for what it is and call it EXACTLY what it is. Even when I see it among members of MY tribe…

          • If you march in a group of similarly dressed people with torches and chant “Jew will not replace us” and “blood and soil”, or fly a Confederate flag, or wear a white hood, or any other symbols of Nazi or white supremacism, you deserve to be judged. And you will.

        • I am black and I agree. Kids do stupid stuff and they should not be labeled incorrigible racists anymore than a black kid should be a career criminal gangbanger because he brawled with some other kids from another school or street..Teenagers do stupid stuff.

          • Yes they do. Drink a beer. Smoke a joint. Unprotected sex. Cheat on a test. Stupid stuff teenagers do.

            But donning a hood, burning a cross, flying a confederate flag and brandishing a rifle? When you’re in an all white school but the Black quarterback? That’s not stupid, it’s terrorism.

  • I’m betting it was really just one or two guys who are filled with hatred and the others (sheep) just went along with it to not stand out or not point out how wrong it was. Moral character of those young men = 0, but hate, maybe not.

  • I’m glad the parents spoke up and said that this does not reflect their family values. They supported the action of removing their son. Sounds like shocked and saddened parents to me (doesn’t sound like racists trying to retreat).

    I’m also a White father of 5, and I have been SHOCKED to hear what one of my kids has said on occasion. That’s not alt-right code……….. That’s shock at what one of my kids has said on occasion.

    I hope this is a powerful life lesson for these young man, and that they learn and are better men for it.

    And I really hope the young Black man quarterbacking the team gets lots of support from those still on the team and from the community.

  • This little gang needs to personally ask for forgiveness from their classmates, the school and the community, and specifically from their teammate, Mr. Smallwood.

  • Parents shocked……….kids just being kids……….sorry I don’t buy it. I always had the “talk” with both my sons. I expanded the talk to include never to let your guard down, hence thinking you are one of the boys. Both encountered racism blatant and not so blatant. I always explained the difference. The parents stating they are shocked is BS. Children embrace what they see and hear in the home. Also how parents interact with individuals different from themselves. It appears the community is not very diverse. which allows for compliancy when dealing with real world issues and when you only watch Fox news. At any rate these kids will get a free pass, which will not serve them well if they leave the confounds and comfort of their small isolated communities.

    • I so agree. This isn’t a “blackface” incident (like the Princeton University dance troupe who thought they were being funny), it was full throated hate in the model of what these young men saw at Chancellorsville. The President carefully cultivated this, starting with his birther racisism.

  • It is too convenient to point the fingers at the parents, especially when these parents have expressed their views, shock and disappointment. Throwing the ‘B.S.’ or ‘I don’t buy that’ label is disingenuous at best or hypocritical at worse. With social media amplifying peer pressure kids (too many adults too) do not always make the wise or best decision. Their actions and possible regret will come when they have to face Mr. Smallwood and their other classmates who are hurt and truly offended by their actions. Regarding the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Sometimes that is accurate and would apply and often times that is very far from the truth. History has demonstrated that some teenagers rebel against their parents teachings. Siblings in the same household raised the exact same way can grow up to espouse very different views and behaviors. We should caution against using blanket statements against an entire state or parents. I do agree with Luke’s dog analogy. I may have to borrow that one.

    • Especially when your team quarterback is Black, donning a white hood and burning a cross and waving a Confederate flag and a rifle (look at the picture) weeks after Charlottesville isn’t something that comes lightly, like imitating an Amos and Andy or Little Rascals show you saw on YouTube.

      It’s a complex expression of cultivated hate, intimidation and terrorism.

  • Dear Black Parents,
    Their is no town in America that does not have racism with in their borders. I grew up in a all white community affluent, Bellevue Wa. I hated those white kids they were mean image having to learn about slavery and these Assh*les say stuff like I think slavery is good and we should reinstate in and everyone but you laughs and the Teacher does nothing. Then having to red Huck Finn and all of the Niggers in that book. Young people need to be around people that look like them when they are teenagers they need that bond. These kids will grow up to be the Paul Ryan’s, Donald Trump, Pence and the whole PODUS cabinet undercover racist or so they think.

  • Ennaid Dianne

    This is what happens when you have a white parent raising half Black offspring to think they are white. There is no way in hell this kid should be shocked that this racist filth is alive and well in his predominately white community or the United States of Amerikkka. His Black dad should have done what Blacks have done for centuries – pull him aside and explain he lives in a racist white supremacist country and he will never be seen as or treated like a human being in Amerikkka. And stating he wanted to ask these future serial killers why they emulated their murderous white forefathers and their terrorists activities as members of the KKK is absolute lunacy! You don’t ask these animals anything! You disassociate yourself from these beasts and understand they will never accept you. The comments that deflect the seriousness of this vile act are proof that white people don’t see their violent, racist, psychotic unwarranted terror of “others” as a problem. To them, these animalistic antics are jokes even though they represent the torture and murder of innocent Black people. Once you accept that they have proven for hundreds of years that when it comes to Black people they simply cannot be human, then will you be able to navigate this racist hell hole with some amount of dignity and self respect.

    • Ennaid well said. Reading theses comments from some like who is trying to ask a question that you will never get a truthful answer from. Why do we act as if this is a shock?

      • Especially when the comments looking for the good in people with kkk robes, a burning cross, rifle and confederate flag seem to be paid for.

        Who else looks for the good in a man wearing a KKK outfit? Makes my skin crawl.

  • How about a hate crime! This is enough of kid gloves on these hatful actions. Take the gloves off.

  • In the comments the attorney made about his personal opinion on the amendment freedom of expression, This kid didn’t choose his parents , love did so in the amendments there should also be law that who you marry is Freedom of Chose ! Poor Situation !

  • Glenn Nunley

    I see this as plain adolescent jealousy! How could it be fair for a younger black kid to steal the glory from us white Kids who are real Americans! Classic White Supremecism! Can y’all not see this? Dumb ass Yankees!

  • I sit back and pay attention to ignorance and intelligent remarks about people I’m not judging HOW CAN YOU JUDGE racist remarks only shows weakness if you respond to racism doesn’t mean you’re right protecting yourself from it is different PEOPLE JUST STOP IT

  • Sadden this young man is having to learn such an awful lesson of hate.
    Sadden those young men opted for open hate rather than embracing their teammate and schoolmate.
    Feeling hopeful by the reaction of the coach as he teaches respect for others and that their value is above the game itself.
    Feeling hopeful by the reaction of the school for not sweeping it under the rug but facing the adversity head on as they should when dealing with any hate towards a fellow student.

  • I don’t disagree with the punishment, nor defend the transgression, but I’m kind of confused how they are bound to school policy if the photos were not taken on school property or at a school event.

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