ASU could still face lawsuit over cross controversy - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

ASU could still face lawsuit over cross controversy

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Arkansas State University said football players can now voluntarily wear crosses on their helmets to honor Markel Owens and Barry Weyer, Jr.

This comes almost two weeks after the cross controversy began. The university stated in a letter to the Liberty Institute that the stickers will now be completely independent of university involvement. 

However, ASU could still face a lawsuit from a different organization. The Wisconsin- based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has opposed the crosses since they first appeared on the players' helmets, saying the decal was too closely related to Christianity. 

One of the organization's attorneys told Region 8 News Thursday that ASU's decision is a step in the wrong direction.

"A lawsuit is something we have to look at still," said Patrick Elliott, an FFRF staff attorney. "We do have serious reservations with the continuance of allowing players to place crosses on their helmets. That continues to show an endorsement of Christianity."

Elliott said the university has now opened up helmets to many different means of expression.

"So players may place religious or political advocacy on their helmets related to prior events or people," Elliott said. "And the university is going to have to deal with that."

Elliott said only time will tell if the university may also have to deal with further legal action. He said FFRF is waiting to see how the controversy plays out at ASU's next football game Saturday.

"There may not be a lawsuit on it," Elliott said. "It may go unchallenged this year and hopefully they'll return to helmets without crosses in future years."

However, students would prefer to take the cross controversy one game at a time.

"You know, I hope all of them [the players] wear it," said sophomore J.D. Rainwater. "I was disappointed when I heard the news that they had to remove them because somebody complained. It's not to hurt someone's feelings. Yeah, it's a cross but it's more about remembering the people who died. That's really all this is."

"I can imagine that most of the players will keep them on the helmets," said sophomore Madison Blancaflor. "I think a lot of people will be supporting the crosses and the players. If it was just a purely religious symbol, there is a time and a place for religion and this is a public university, but since it was memorializing two students, I think that it's perfectly fine to be incorporated."

Fans will also have the chance to support the team's decision to honor Markel Owens and Barry Weyer, Jr. Merchandise shops around Jonesboro are selling t-shirts, car decals and more with the cross emblem on them. 

"I'm glad they're representing the people who passed away," said Rainwater.

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