By Joseph Harkins
GREELEY, Colo. — Not everyone is ready for some football.
Ahead of Sunday’s opening game between Denver and the Pittsburgh Steelers, one Colorado school district has decided to gang up on an 8-year-old student who was prohibited from wearing Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning’s No. 18 football jersey to class.
“They told me I couldn’t wear 18 anymore because it’s a gang number and I had to take it off,” said Konnor Vanatta, during an interview with FOX31 Denver before Sunday’s big regular-season game, the first for Manning since his trade to Denver in the offseason after a hall-of-fame-worthy career with Indianapolis Colts.
A spokesperson for Weld County District 6 explained the policy has been around for more than three years and applies to the numbers 13, 14, 18, 31, 41 and 81.
“Peyton Manning’s been my favorite football player for a long time,” said Vannatta, who wore a No. 61 jersey the following day to protest the policy and was met without restraint.
His mother, Pam Vanatta, also thinks the penalty is uncalled for and should be further reviewed.
“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 then what they’re wearing,” said the student’s mother.
The school is standing by its call.
“We’re Broncos fans ourselves, it has nothing to do with that we’re just wanting to set a consistent solid, example,” said spokesperson Roger Fiedler. “We do try to really discourage and take a stance on any sort of clothing or display of gang-affiliated material or signage.”
Pam Vanatta said the family is all for school safety, but this time the No. 18 should be celebrated, not feared.
Numbers on the jerseys of professional athletes are set using a system, for the most part, and are the responsibility of the equipment manager. Quarterbacks like Manning typically have low numbers.
Prior to arriving in Denver and throughout his long and record-setting career with the Colts, Manning wore No. 18. When Indianapolis decided to go in different direction and traded Manning to the Broncos in the offseason, the newly acquired quarterback found that No. 18 in Denver had belonged to former Bronco Frank Tripuka and had already been retired from use again.