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By Michael Thompson
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning might have the hottest-selling jersey in the entire National Football League, but you won’t see it being worn by students at the public schools of Weld District 6 in Greeley, Colo.
Because Manning’s jersey number “18” is affiliated with an area gang (along with Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley’s number “14” and the numbers 13, 31, 41, and 81), students aren’t allowed to support the quarterback.
First reported by the USA Today in early September, third grader Konnor Vanatta told FOX31 in Denver that he was told “to remove his jersey because of its gang ties.”
“I’m pretty upset the schools have come down to this and I think they need to start paying attention to the education the children are getting rather than what they’re wearing,” said Konnor’s mom, Pam, to FOX31.
Neither FOX31 or the USA Today reported that the “gang problem” that keeps students like Vanatta from wearing a Manning jersey is entirely a Hispanic gang problem.
Not far from Denver, the city of Greeley is home to a booming agriculture industry and the JBS USA meatpacking plant, which attracts illegal aliens.
Weld District 6, which has 19,726 students, is 58 percent Hispanic, 37 percent white, 2 percent black and 2 percent Asian. Fifty-nine percent of the city students in the district receive free or reduced lunches.
The Greeley Tribune recently reported that, “In 1980, it was 15.5 percent of the population. The 2010 census shows 33,440 Latinos, or 36 percent of the city’s population of 92,889.”
That same article mentioned, “Ibrahim Mohamed, a local caseworker for Lutheran Family Services, which provides refugee resettlement services, said there are about 1,200 Somalis in Greeley and about 600 Burmese. That compares with 300 Somalis and virtually no Burmese in early 2008. Also, families from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to arrive in Greeley.”
Back in 2007 the Rocky Mountain News reported that the two biggest gangs in Greeley were Hispanic (Gangs: Small-town America’s big-city battle, June 7, 2007, by Bianca Preito), noting, “the city’s gang unit has tracked more than 500 gang members within the city limits.” To make the list, a member has to be associated with a known street gang and linked to a specific crime.
Greeley has roughly one gang member for every 175 people, while Denver’s ratio – with 8,811 gang members – is one for every 63 people.
The two biggest gangs in Greeley are Hispanic. Police say most of the members are U.S. citizens.
On June 10 of this year, the Greeley Tribune published an article with the headline
“Officials may revive war against gang violence,” after five gang-related shootings happened to kick off the summer.
The article noted that Greeley Police Chief Jerry Garner would convene his “Latino Advisory Group” in which they would start the conversation to stop the violence.
Meanwhile, students can’t wear Peyton Manning’s jersey to school.
The ban on the wearing of numbers at schools in Weld District 6 went into effect three years ago, as an attempt to cut down on gang paraphernalia and recruiting efforts by gangs in the classrooms, Teresa Myers, communications director of Weld District 6 in Greeley, told WND.
“They are banned because gangs in Greeley and the greater Denver area use these numbers for recruiting/identification purposes,” said Myers.
Students also can’t wear solid blue or solid red clothes, as these are also gang colors, Myers said.
“Jersey’s aren’t banned. Only those with the 13, 14, 18, 31, 41 and 81 numbers. They can wear all the Peyton Manning memorabilia they want – any Broncos paraphernalia they want – but they can’t wear the number ’18’ (which is Manning’s number), because it is a gang-affiliated number.”
“We are excited about the cultural enrichment and diversity that we have in Weld District 6,” she said.
Not everyone agrees on the cultural enrichment to the schools of Greeley.
Tom Tancredo, the former congressman from Colorado and runner-up in the 2010 Colorado governor’s election (as a candidate of the Constitution Party), told WND that banning certain numbers because of a fear of Hispanic gang recruitment and denying American children the chance to wear the jersey’s of their athletic heroes is a clear sign something is wrong with the United States immigration policy.
“There’s a huge illegal alien population in Greeley. There’s a meat packing company there, and it’s rich in agricultural jobs, which is a combination of things that have made it a haven for illegal immigration,” Tancredo said.
“A community, just like any nation, cannot rely on diversity as a benefit to society when it reaches a point where there’s nothing left that we have in common. There’s a great saying that a nation is not defined by what it debates, it’s defined by what it has in common, what it takes for granted,” he said.
“If you can’t wear a jersey with Peyton Manning’s number to school because of a fear of a problem that wasn’t there ten, twenty or thirty years ago, well, what does that tell you about the true nature of diversity?”