JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Arkansas State University
announced Wednesday it would modify the cross on the back of the helmets to memorialize two former team members who passed away this year.
The cross was to honor Markel Owens, the football player who was shot and killed this year during a robbery in Jackson, Tennessee and equipment manager, Barry Weyer, Jr. who died in a car accident in Paragould three months ago.
"The players volunteered, it wasn't a forced issue and it wasn't a mandatory thing," said Barry Weyer Sr. "The players knew Barry Don and Markel were Christian boys so they volunteered to wear crosses."
After Saturday's debut of the crosses, the University received complaints.
"They say they don't have to take them all the way off just alter them," said Weyer Sr. "So, they're going to cut the top and the bottom of the cross and leave just the centerpiece with their initial on it. That takes away from the whole point of honoring."
Region 8 reached out to members of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a group that led to the removal of the cross, who explained why the crosses were unconstitutional.
"Surely it would be far better to add a name on the helmet instead of a generic Christian cross to everybody who sees it," said Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel. "We hope that the crosses are just temporary addition because they would not be allowed under constitution because they are government property."
Weyer's parents are upset with the decision to get rid of the cross but are still very grateful to Coach Anderson and the team.
"My heart goes out to Coach Anderson and the football team because they honored two fallen teammates that they thought the world of, and it was a slap in the face to them," said Michelle Weyer.
crosses will be modified to where only the horizontal line of the cross with the initials inside will remain.