Update: As of Friday, August 31, at 10 a.m., Curtis Mattair is no longer on suspension.
On the evening of August 23, Chamblee Charter High School was unfavorably thrust into the local spotlight when 11Alive aired a story about t-shirts worn by student athletes. The shirts were fairly simple: one main color, no fancy designs, and the acronym DBNP across the chest. However, a mother of a CCHS football player had heard that the acronym stood for “Don’t Be No P****”, immediately sparking controversy for CCHS and the DeKalb County School District.
DCSD promptly responded to the report with an official statement.
The statement said, “The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) has been made aware of a misconception involving a shirt worn by Chamblee Charter High School football players. The shirt displays the acronym ‘D.B.N.P.’ An investigation by the school determined the acronym stands for ‘Don’t Be No Procrastinator,’ not an explicit message. The shirts were worn as part of a character-building exercise.”
If their statement was honest and accurate, the controversy should have ended there. But that was not the case for CCHS. The next day, when the Chamblee football team travelled to Valdosta to take on Lowndes High School, Head Coach Curtis Mattair was not with them. Mattair was the one that had made the shirts for the team, and rumor was that that morning, he had been suspended indefinitely from both coaching and teaching.
Almost a week later, on the morning of August 30, DCSD finally put the rumor to rest.
“This is what I can confirm: employee Curtis Mattair is currently on paid administrative leave,” said DCSD spokesman Andre Riley in an emailed statement to AJC.com.
While they did explain that Mattair was not in fact suspended, they neither confirmed nor denied reports that his leave was due to the DBNP shirts. And this lack of information has led to the confusion of many students. If the county is stating that it was a character building exercise and it was not explicit, then why are they putting Mattair on leave?
The county has stated it does not comment on personnel matters, which makes this a difficult question to answer. Riley’s statement, even though it was short and did not explain why, was more than any other administrative figure would say. Assistant Principal Clifton Spears and Sherry Johnson, the regional superintendent for region one, declined to comment on personnel matters. Principal Rebecca Braaten did not say anything more than the official DCSD response.
The situation was made even more divisive when students returned to school on the Monday after Mattair was put on leave. Many were very upset and wore their DBNP shirts to school to stand up for their coach. However, administrators spent the day patrolling the school, talking to any students they saw wearing the DBNP shirts. Senior Sidney Murray, who plays wide receiver for the football team, was spoken to by Spears during lunch for wearing his shirt.
“[Mr. Spears] told me not to wear it again,” said Murray. “He told me ‘I know you are trying to support your coach but we need you to support him by not wearing [the DBNP shirts].’”
The shirts are not just for the football team. Senior Caiah Smith, who plays on the women’s varsity soccer team, said the team got the shirts last year. She also wore her shirt on Monday, and was talked to by Spears.
“He did not say anything about me wearing the shirt. He just explained why they are so upset about it,” said Smith. “It’s not necessarily the administration, it’s like a parent had a problem with it.”
Smith said that another step she hopes members of the football and soccer teams will take to support Mattair is to write letters.
“If we want to stand behind [Mattair], we need to write and stuff like that, like how we stood up for Neuhaus last year,” said Smith.
But the administrative response was not the only thing that added to the controversy. Upon arriving at school that Monday morning, many students quickly came out and said that neither meaning was true.
“[The DBNP shirts] mean whatever you want them to mean,” said Smith. “There is no set definition, so I don’t see where the wrong is in it because it can mean something to one person and mean a different thing to another person.”
Senior Stuart Steele, who plays quarterback on the football team, heard about what the county said the shirts meant and was very short and sweet in his response.
“That wasn’t accurate,” said Steele. “[‘Don’t be no procrastinator’] is definitely not what it means.”
He emphasized that the county had nothing to do with the shirts and that they were not a “character building exercise.”
The recurring point made by these athletes, as well as several others, was that the shirts were motivational and had no set definition. They could mean whatever people wanted them to mean.
Some people have been expressing concern that there was an issue with the way Mattair sold the shirts, claiming it was not allowed for him to sell shirts on campus in this manner. But Smith, as well as her fellow varsity soccer athlete, senior Diya Flenaugh, emphasized that the shirts were a team decision, and that anyone that wanted one paid for it individually. Football coach James Wallace also defended this point.
“I’m pretty sure it wasn’t team funding,” Wallace said. “I think the kids could purchase them.”
While Mattair is on leave, Wallace and Clinton Momon will be stepping in as interim co-head coaches. Prior to stepping into their head coaching roles, Wallace was the offensive line coach and Momon worked quality control. Neither of them know when Mattair will return.
“I have no idea [why he is on administrative leave] because since it’s a personnel matter, they won’t talk to us at all about it, and Coach [Mattair] has been advised not to talk to us about it either,” said Wallace. “We don’t know [how long he will be gone].”
Momon is in the same boat as Wallace, as he does not know anything either about why Mattair is gone or when he will be back.
“I don’t know when he will be back,” said Momon. “I know it’s a situation where the Office of Legal Affairs has entered the situation.”
When asked what he interpreted the acronym on the DBNP shirts to mean, Momon declined to comment.
“I’m not going to comment on that. That is something that is left up to interpretation,” he said.
Wallace also had no idea what the shirts meant.
“I didn’t even ask, apparently the day those things were handed out I wasn’t in attendance, and honestly I don’t think I ever even asked,” said Wallace. “At one point I did hear one of the kids say ‘Don’t Be No Procrastinator’ earlier in the spring.”
Despite the controversy, the team will keep practicing and working hard in their coach’s absence.
This is a developing story and will be updated as new information comes out. Check back for updates.