Ohio Northern University is allowing their College Republicans group to sell a "Back the Blue" T-shirt after initially denying the request due to "sensitivity" issues, but is restricting sales to members of the organization.

On September 16, Madeline Markwood, the president of the Ohio Northern University College Republicans and a Campus Reform correspondent, emailed Sheila Baumgartner, the associate director of communications and marketing at the school, to ask if the group could sell "long sleeve Carhartt Back the Blue shirts."

According to Campus Reform, Markwood received an email on September 17 from Baumgartner explaining that the group would not be able to sell the t-shirt to their organization or to the campus community because of other schools that have had to "retract and apologize" for allowing "Blue Lives initiatives."

(Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)


"Due to the sensitivity around this request, we took this topic to the DEI board and OMD office. They then discussed as a group and would recommend not moving forward with this project. There are several schools who allowed Blue Lives initiatives who have had to retract and apologize.  Dr. Walker shared the links below for reference," Baumgartner said. 

While Baumgartner denied the College Republicans' T-shirt idea, she offered the group an alternative: work with the Ohio Northern University Office of Multicultural Development to organize an event to discuss "what might be perceived as problematic about this message."

Markwood was eventually referred to Albertina Walker, the interim director for the Ohio Northern University Office of Multicultural Development. She told Walker that the College Republicans want to sell the T-shirts to support the police.

The roof of a police patrol car at night, with the blue and red lights flashing.

Police car (istock)

"As a student organization we simply want to sell these shirts and would like to spend our time supporting the police (the brave men and women who protect us all day everyday)," Markwood said.

After Campus Reform published the story, Markwood was invited to a meeting with the Dean of Students, Adrian Thompson Bradshaw, where she was told that the College Republicans chapter could sell the T-shirts, but only to members of the organization.


Markwood said that the compromise is "better than nothing" but she noted that "it shouldn't have been a win in the first place. Because it should be something that is okay to sell on campus."

NEW YORK, USA - MARCH 30: Back the blue and police supporters gather at the 122 Precinct in Staten Island of New York, United States on March 30, 2021. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Markwood told Fox News that the university is censoring free speech.

"You don't have to buy a shirt, but the students should have the freedom to do so whether they're in College Republicans or not. And it's literally silencing a group," Markwood said.

"I can't even just wear a shirt saying 'Back to the Blue on campus," she added.

Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith, a spokesperson for the National Police Association, told Fox News that backlash against the "Back the Blue" slogan is based on a "false narrative."

"This is all based on a false narrative that somehow American law enforcement is dangerous to the community. And you know, this is something that law enforcement have been fighting for a long time," Smith said. "I think now that's been proven as we see, you know, the Defund the Police movement has done nothing but help violent crime flourish."


Smith said that it's "silliness" the College Republicans chapter cannot sell the T-shirts to the entire campus community.

"This notion that American law enforcement is somehow dangerous to students or the very innocuous slogan of ‘Back the Blue.’ In other words, we support our police that that is somehow a triggering issue or somehow a sensitive thing to say. Again, it's silliness, and it's based on a false narrative, and we, the American people, have got to continue to stand together to fight that false narrative" Smith said.