"No" in black, "Apologies" in red. The large banner hanging in front of Lakeville North's student section before last Thursday's football game at Woodbury was hard to miss.

And for those outside the Panthers' program, probably hard to understand.

The defending Class 6A champs aren't perfect. But they're done feeling bad for their swagger and their sport — both of which they've come under fire for.

Football advocates feel their sport has drawn undue criticisms in the wake of concussion awareness. As a result, participation numbers are down. Coaches believe they are teaching a smarter, safer way to play.

"It's like I heard [former Vikings center] Matt Birk say at our football summit, 'We are not going to apologize for football anymore,' " coach Brian Vossen said. "We don't want every kid to play. But we do want every kid that's willing to pay the price of admission."