LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. (WAFF) - It’s not rare to find a number of advertisements decorated around a football at a public high school across the country. One sign in particular that mentions President Trump’s famous “Make America Great Again” slogan on a high school football scoreboard is sparking controversy.
A Limestone County electrical company, Veep Electric Service, purchased the space from the school for $1,000. Draped along the right-side of the scoreboard, it makes mention of “Go Trump #MAGA” before detailing information of the business.
“I had the [it] put on as a personal touch," explained the businesses owner Skip Van Pamel. "What my thought was at the time was that we were still dealing with and hearing about a lot of folks crying ‘Not My President.’ So I thought it would be nice to show a sign of support for him.”
Van Pamel says he initially added President Trump lettering in 2018 but it wasn’t until this year that people took issue with the advertisement.
“There should not be a sign on school property that advocates for a political party of candidate," said Ken Hines with the Limestone County Democrates.
Hines, the groups chairperson, believes the sign violates Limestone County Schools policy against the display of political signs on school property.
“We should be able to expect that we can send our children to those schools without them intervening in on our relationship with our children regarding issues like politics or religion," said Hines.
Limestone County Schools Superintendent Dr. Tom Sisk told 48 News that they have determined the advertisement does not violate their policy.
“It’s an advertisement for an electrical company who’s pro-American and supports the President," said Dr. Sisk. "I believe and the board concurs, and legal counsel agrees that this is free-speech protected.”
Sisk says if the sign stated “Go Trump 2020” or was paid for by a political action group or candidate then it would violate policy. He adds that they have removed dozens of political signs over the past year from either side of the aisle.
“I, as superintendent, believe in free speech," said Dr. Sisk. "I believe that there are two sides to every story and I respect those who don’t like the advertisement. I also respect the man who is advertising with the school.”
“It’s not about free speech," stated Hines. "He certainly has a right to support the President, campaign for the President - that’s not a problem. In fact, I am in the business of encouraging folks to participate in politics. He’s welcome to do that. It is about using a government institution, especially a school to carry on a partisan fight.”
Van Pamel says he is surprised how much conversation his sign has sparked but has no plans to alter it or take it down. “It’s more or less a permanent sign. As long as I keep paying the bill the school is going to keep it up. Right now, I have no intention of taking it down.”
Hines hopes for an administrative solution on the issue. However, he says he is not opposed to legal recourse.