GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4) – A Greeley family says their 8-year-old son was forced to take off his Peyton Manning jersey in school.
Officials with the Greeley-Evans School District say the number on the Denver Broncos jersey — No. 18 — has ties to gangs and that it is not permitted in their dress code.
Konnor Vanatta says the Broncos new quarterback is his hero.
“I like wearing my Peyton Manning jersey,” he told CBS4 on Wednesday.
His mother Pam said he’s been a fan of Manning since he was 4 and that his grandmother got him the orange jersey.
“It was absurd to me. I was shocked,” Pam Vanatta said. “I was speechless.”
The school, Monfort Elementary School, told Vanatta the number 18 was affiliated with a gang in Los Angeles, and that there are several numbers they ban in school. Greeley police told CBS4 they have run into local gangs using the number, among other numbers. They said they support the school district’s actions.
“It was my principal. He said I had to take it off and that we weren’t allowed to wear it because it was a gang number,” Konnor said.
So far officials with the school district haven’t spoken about the situation on camera, despite numerous attempts by CBS4 to contact them.
“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.
A school district spokesman told the Denver Post late Wednesday they “hope people would understand it has nothing to do with (Manning) or the Broncos.” Roger Fiedler told the newspaper they may reconsider the ban on the Manning jersey because of the NFL legend’s incredible popularity.
When Manning signed with the Broncos in the spring No. 18 was retired. It was a tribute to Denver’s first quarterback, Frank Tripucka. But since it’s the number Manning has worn his whole NFL career, Tripucka personally told Manning he would be happy to see him wear it.