Banana Man is Graduating

When he was a sophomore, he was punished for wearing a banana suit and disrupting a football game. Enter Pat Collins in a grape suit.

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    News4's Pat Collins, in his grape suit, with Banana Man, aka Bryan Thompson. Bryan graduates today. (Photo: NBCWashington)

    A young man who spawned a meme -- and got Pat Collins to wear his now-famous grape suit -- is graduating from high school Saturday.

    His name is Bryan Thompson, but he's also known as Banana Man. As a sophomore at Colonial Forge High School, Bryan became locally famous in 2011 when he donned a banana suit and ran around the sidelines of a high school football game.

    "Banana Man" Suffers the Fruits of His Actions

    [DC] "Banana Man" Suffers the Fruits of His Actions
    A Stafford County high school student is suspended for wearing a banana costume and running around the football field at halftime. (Published Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011)

    "I just wanted to make people happy," Bryan told Pat Collins in 2011.

    The stunt did not make the school happy. Bryan's mom got a text from her older son, also at the game: "Mom, come quick. You know how the school can't take a joke. They just arrested [Bryan] for running down the football field in a banana suit."

    Bryan was suspended for 10 days, which many felt was overly strict punishment. Bryan's mom pointed out that her son is autistic.

    Then the controversy ballooned. The following Monday, Bryan's friends and supporters made "Free Banana Man" t-shirts and wore them to school. Administrators tried to make the students remove the shirts, and the American Civil Liberties Union had to intervene to allow the students their protest. Bryan wrote a "Free Banana Man" rap song.

    And News4's Pat Collins donned a grape suit to interview the young man, creating an indelible image that still pops up from time to time on Reddit or Tumblr.

    (Why grapes? Rumor has it the station couldn't find a banana suit.)

    The attention worked: Bryan's suspension was lifted, and about a week after the controversial decision the principal at Colonial Forge High School resigned.

    And Bryan's academic career was back on track -- culminating in Saturday's celebration.