LANSING, MI -- A Midland athlete who gained national attention in a social media uproar last year was invited to the floor of the Michigan House of for Gov. Rick Snyder's 2017 State of the State address on Jan. 17.
Ashton Brooks, who is black, was at the center of a national story in October after a white woman posted an Instagram photo with a picture of a gorilla and the caption "... got a pic with dows kicker ;)."
Brooks is the placekicker for the Midland H.H. Dow High School football team and the picture was taken at the school's Friday, Oct. 21, game against Midland High School.
The recent controversy over a social media post attacking a black female high school football kicker will not be allowed to distract from the team's first football playoff game this Friday, Oct. 28.
After the post was made that Friday, it was discovered by school officials Saturday and by Tuesday it had gone viral when Shaun King, a writer for the New York Daily News, tweeted the image. King was not the person who initially took the photograph.
The woman who posted the image was a former Dow student and a Michigan State University student at the time. She has since been banned from the high school property.
Brooks and her mother were invited by Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, to a private reception in the governor's office before his address to a joint session of the state House and Senate. She then joined Glenn on the House floor for the governor's speech while her mother, April Brooks, watched from the gallery, according to a Glenn representative.
"The visit meant more to me than words can account for," Ashton Brooks said. "Representatives are only allowed to bring one guest to the floor, so the fact that Rep. Gary Glenn chose me to be that person, in itself is something to look up to."
Glenn, in a press release, said it was a pleasure having the Brookses as his guests and praised the way Brooks handled the national attention she received.
"As a football fan, I was impressed and proud of Ashton's athletic ability and performance, but as her state representative and a father, even more so by the maturity, grace and discipline with which she responded to suddenly being thrust at a young age into a national spotlight," Glenn said.
"Her example is worthy of recognition, and I hope her being here is an encouragement that sends a strong message that the Midland community and the entire state of Michigan value, respect, and support her and all our young people 'not by the color of their skin,' as Dr. King said, 'but by the content of their character.'"
Brooks said she was introduced to the youngest representative in the House as well as Michigan's Speaker of the House Tom Leonard, with whom she had a discussion about his high school football career.
"It was crazy to think that while I'm always looking up to our great politicians, last night some of them even looked up to me and seemed quite proud of me and the way I handled my viral story," Brooks said. "And it was extremely powerful to be recognized by such amazing people in that way."
Brooks was the first female to play for a high school football team in Midland. Also a member of the Dow soccer team, she scored more extra points than any other kicker in the Saginaw Valley League Blue Division, was named 2nd team All-Conference, as well as the Dow High football team's Most Valuable Player and Special Teams Player of the Year. She plans to attend Northwood University in Midland on academic and soccer scholarships.
"It truly was an incredible experience that I am so very lucky to have been a part of," Brooks said of her House visit.