Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has voiced his support for a Texas teenager whose high school is forcing him to cut his dreadlocks in order to being allowed to walk at his graduation ceremony.
Hopkins tweeted a message to Deandre Arnold:
Per KPRC in Houston, Arnold's mother, Sandy, said her son has always complied with the Barbers Hill High School dress code of having hair "off the shoulders above the earlobes and out of the eyes."
Sandy said after the school's Christmas break, the district changed the policy.
"They say that even (when) my hair is up, if it were to be down, it would be not in compliance with the dress code," Deandre told KPRC. "However, I don't take it down in the school."
Arnold said his dreadlocks are a way for him to be closer to his family's culture: "I really like that part of Trinidadian culture; I really embrace that."
Schane Niemann, owner of the Eagle's Nest Barber Shop located across the street from the high school in Mont Belvieu, told David Gonzalez of KHOU 11 that the policy has nothing to do with race.
"It's by far not a race issue, by far," said Niemann, who said a number of students in the past have come to his shop to get their hair cut in order to comply with the school. "Like I said, there's a lot of kids who come here that don't agree with it, but they knew that is the policy. You've got to follow policy."
The policy has drawn criticism and accusations of racism, including from Ashton P. Woods, founder of Houston's Black Lives Matter chapter. He tweeted support for Arnold: "Our demands remain the same, Deandre should be able to attend class, prom and walk in his graduation."
Gary Monroe, a United Urban Alumni Association activist, told Marcelino Benito of KHOU 11 that "Deandre [and] his family should not have to go through this" and said the school was in "violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as it pertains to religious beliefs."
Hopkins has worn shoulder-length dreadlocks throughout his NFL career with the Texans.