When the Indianapolis Colts released star quarterback Peyton Manning this spring after 14 years of faithful service (and a Super Bowl victory), the Denver Broncos eagerly picked him up. Coloradoans rejoiced, and have made Manning’s number 18 jersey the best-selling in the NFL since April.
Konnor Vanatta, 8, of Greeley, Colorado, owns one of the new jerseys. He can’t wait for Manning to make his Denver debut this Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Like many football fans his age, Konnor was eager to show his allegiance by wearing his Manning jersey to school. The trouble is that he is not allowed to. His jersey has what local school officials call a “gang number” on it, with possible ties to a gang in Los Angeles.
Greeley and Los Angeles are 1,069 miles apart.
I’d never heard of gang numbers before, so I went to the FBI’s website at fbi.gov and ran a few searches for terms like “Peyton Manning gang affiliation,” “Denver Broncos,” “gang numbers,” and the like. About all I found out was that the FBI does not consider the Broncos a gang, nor is Peyton a suspected gang member. Neither is Konnor, who is a third grader.
Still, zero tolerance means zero tolerance. Any clothing with the number 18 on it is verboten in Weld County’s public school system. Other suspected gang numbers are 13 and 14, along with all three numbers in reverse – 31, 41, and 81.
Which means Peyton isn’t the only Bronco who isn’t welcome in Greeley, Colorado schools. Young fans of wide receivers Tyler Grisham (13) and Brandon Stokley (14), cornerback Omar Bolden (31), and tight end Joel Dreessen (81) will also have to leave their jerseys at home. And baseball fans shouldn’t even think about wearing their Drew Pomeranz (13) Rockies jerseys come springtime.
Unlike school officials, Konnor’s mother appears to have common sense. She told a local CBS affiliate:
“I knew that Greeley had a gang problem but I didn’t think in any event it should affect someone that’s in third grade,” Vanatta said.
Vanatta said she appreciates that school leaders want to be cautious, but she worries maybe they are just “giving the gangs what they want.”
“When they are counting and when they’re learning their numbers, are they going to make them skip 14, 13, 41, 81, 18 when they are counting? It’s getting ridiculous,” she said.
Good points all. Even the NFL weighed in, with NFL.com editor Gregg Rosenthal correctly describing the policy as “idiocy.”