Let it never be said again that journalism is a humorless business.
Covering an odd tale about a 14-year-old autistic boy who was handcuffed by police and suspended for running down the sidelines of a high school football game at halftime wearing a banana costume, Washington, D.C. reporter Pat Collins donned a grape suit and went out to get his story.
Speaking to Bryan Thompson, who pulled the prank on Sept. 14 and found himself at the center of a controversy over the school’s response, Collins’ sarcastic outrage seemed palpable.
“School officials accused him of being disruptive and disrespectful,” Collins said. “Frankly, I don’t see what all the fuss is about.”
He asked the student: “Why a banana? Why not a … grape?”
“I don’t know,” Thompson replied. “Potassium is great.”
Following the prank, Colonial Forge High School Principal Karen Spillman suspended Thompson for 10 days, and even recommended that he be kicked out of school for the entire year.
Shortly thereafter, Thompson had composed his own rap song about the incident (called “Free Banana Man!”), set up a Facebook page dedicated to “Banana Man,” and someone even launched a petition calling for his suspension to be lifted.
Thompson’s outrage at the punishment was shared by his fellow students, who began creating yellow t-shirts that read, “Free Banana Man!”
So the school did what schools so often do when their authority is challenged: they banned the shirts, began confiscating them, and sent students to detention for supporting their classmate.
“But when you think about it, you might see [the school's] point,” Collins jokingly concluded. “It starts with a banana. Then, all of the sudden, you have an apple, and an orange, and maybe a grape! And before you know it, you have fruit salad in the schools! We can’t have that.”
The school’s principal was ultimately forced to resign, and Thompson has since returned to his studies.
This video is from NBC affiliate WRC in Washington, D.C.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
Raw Story is a progressive news site that focuses on stories often ignored in the mainstream media. While giving coverage to the big stories of the day, we also bring our readers' attention to policy, politics, legal and human rights stories that get ignored in an infotainment culture driven solely by pageviews.
Founded in 2004, Raw Story reaches 5 million unique readers per month and serves more than 19 million pageviews.