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A New Jersey high school swimmer from Morristown High was disqualified from a competition after the opponent’s coach pointed out that the American flag on his swim cap was 0.2 inches larger than regulations permit. The swimmer’s father, Rob Miller, said his 16-year-old son was wearing the patch to honor his grandfather, who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City.
To make matters worse, the opposing coach, from Parsippany Hills High School, had let the 400-meter free relay proceed—it was only after it was over that he made his complaint and had the sophomore swimmer DQ’d.
A man of no honor.
The elder Miller was enraged and took to Twitter to reveal his feelings in a tweet that has since been deleted:
Blood is boiling. My son was part of a 200 Free Relay to win a swim meet on Senior Night. After the final event, the opposing coach asked to measure the size of the American Flag on his @SpeedoUSA swim cap. It was 0.2″ too large according to standards. DQ’d. They lost. 😠🇺🇸 (1/2) pic.twitter.com/9R9S30bzZ9
robmillertime (@robmillertime) February 2, 2023
(Although his tweet says “200 Free Relay,” he later corrected that to indicate that it was actually a 400-meter race.) Apparently, the angry father on Friday took a deep breath and decided to take the high road:
Just so everyone knows, I deleted the original tweet. I think the point was made. Thanks for sharing your DQ stories w/us and for a few US Olympians for reaching out! Really helped. My son is the nicest kid you'll meet. He just wants to get back to swimming.
— robmillertime (@robmillertime) February 4, 2023
Whoever is in charge of the Morristown High School swim team’s Instagram page, however, was not pleased, writing:
Final duel meet of the 22-23 season vs. Par Hills. Girls had another dub added to the books! Boys unfortunately lost during the final relay due to some technical difficulties (everyone knows motown boys were the real winners)
It is true that there are rules in place for this sort of thing. The National Federation of State High School Associations Swimming and Diving rulebook states:
One American flag, not to exceed 2 inches by 3 inches, may be worn or occupy space on each item of uniform apparel.
The episode reminds me of the notorious 1983 Pine Tar Incident, where Kansas City Royal star George Brett hit a home run against the Yankees, only to be later ruled “out” because the opposing manager Billy Martin accused him of having too much pine tar on his bat. A measurement was taken, Brett’s homer was taken away, and he launched into one of the legendary sports meltdowns in history:
The Royals later protested the loss, the home run was reinstated, and the game was resumed 25 days later with KC winning 5–4.
Unfortunately, such a fair outcome is unlikely to occur here.
As in this swimming incident, the Yankees knew all along that they had a valid complaint, and waited until the most opportune moment to take advantage of it. Unlike in this case, however, these were grown men playing in a professional sports league, and some to this day feel that Brett’s use of excessive pine tar gave him a competitive advantage.
No one is suggesting that an American flag on a swim cap that is just a tiny bit too large offers any advantage whatsoever.
The coach who called out this technicality at a high school swim meet—after the race was over—should be ashamed of himself. The boy and the Morristown team should have been issued a warning so he could change his cap, but instead, the opposition chose to spit all over the American flag and this grandson’s memorial to his slain grandfather—all in the name of a cheap win.
High school swim team disqualified, US flag on one swimmers cap was "too big." Biological male takes women's swim medals? No problem. But US flag to honor grandfather who died on 9/11? Big problem. May be first time in history a civilization knowingly commits suicide. pic.twitter.com/y1IgE92SAe
— David C. Stolinsky (@DCStolinsky) February 3, 2023
Correction: A previous version said at one point that the flag was .2 centimeters too large. It was .2 inches too large.