US cheerleaders on probation for posing with 'Trump 2020' banner at football game

Cheerleaders from a North Carolina high school have been put on probation after they held up a 'Trump 2020: Make America Great Again' banner before a football game.

The North Stanly High School cheerleading squad were put on probation on Monday for presenting the banner before the home game on August 30 (local time).

The squad posed for photos with the banner which were widely circulated on social media. The North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) subsequently intervened as the students were found in breach of a state-wide policy prohibiting the distribution of political signs, CBS reports.

If the students continue to defy the policy, punishment can escalate to fines or suspension.

"Because the cheerleaders were in uniform and were acting as representatives of the school, the sign could be perceived as the school or school sytem endorsing a political campaign," a Stanly County Schools' spokesperson told CBS.

District superintendent Jeff James told local media the banner wasn't planned or supported by the school or its staff.

The decision to punish the students has proven controversial, with a number of outraged locals creating a Facebook plan to attend this Friday's game in support of the squad.

"Please come out and help me show the school and the NCHSAA that freedom of speech is not dead," says the event page.

"Please bring all your Trump and MAGA gear and let's throw our support behind the North Stanly High School cheerleaders."

The year-long probation has been described as a "warning" for the cheerleaders. They will not be suspended from cheerleading.