Two high school students were kicked off their football team for holding an NFL-style protest during the national anthem.
Larry McCullough, 18, and his cousin Cedric Ingram, 16, were told to return their uniforms by coach Ronnie Ray Mitchem after their protest. The Victory & Praise Christian Academy football team is not associated with any particular high school, but accepts high school-aged teens who are homeschooled or attend a school without a football team, ABC13 reported.
Coach Mitchem is founder of the team and pastor of the ministry associated with the Texas academy. He said he discussed the issue with the teens before the game.
“I’m a former Marine. That just doesn’t fly and they knew that. I don’t have any problem with those young men. We’ve had a good relationship. They chose to do that and they had to pay for the consequences,” said Mitchem, via the Houston Chronicle.
The teens told CNN that the coach made them strip off their uniforms in front of everyone, although Mitchem disputes that account of the event in a Facebook post. He said that they needed to give back the uniform but could go into the locker room. He said they chose to strip off their uniforms on the sidelines because they had clothes underneath.
“I want to be clear that I don’t have a problem with people protesting if it is done the right way. But to disrespect the flag that gives us the right to protest is the wrong way to do it. I gave the two players other ways to protest that I felt was fair,” said Mitchem in another Facebook post.
“I wasn’t trying to disrespect the flag. It was really showing the injustice for black people, all the stuff that’s going on in the NFL, stuff like that, so I feel I need to be a part of it, too,” said McCullough via CNN.
“He has a slave master mentality,” said Ingram’s mother Rhonda Brady, about coach Mitchem, in the ABC13 report. “If you were to go back to that when they wanted to tell us this is what you are going to do and this is how you do it. And if we didn’t comply, we were beaten, whooped, or even killed.”
This high school protest comes as NFL teams are changing their tune on the anthem protest trend. According to Bleacher Report fewer players were seen protesting during yesterday’s games. It comes after a week where a record 180 players didn’t stand for the anthem. Fans responded to the upsurge in team protests by filling stadiums with boos, or even holding football memorabilia burning parties, NTD TV reported. Many of those offended by the protests view it as an attack on the nation’s veterans. The financial impact on the NFL has also been significant.
“I love these two young men and one of them has spent the night at my house and I have taken him to football camps. He and my son are good friends. But I know and most Americans know and understand that if we lose that one common thread the love of country and respect for what we have then it won’t be long before we lose that freedom that we have,” said Mitchem in his lengthy Facebook post.
“I served in the U.S. Marines alongside men of different colors and back grounds. My Marine drill instructors told us there was no black or white Marine just Marine Corps green and we would all fight for our country together,” added Mitchem, in the post. “Martin Luther King was one of the greatest men to ever live and he always had the American flag in his marches and rallies. He did not hate America he wanted America to be the greatest nation on earth and I do not believe his dream included disrespecting our great nation and those who have died for it. Black, white, Asian, Hispanic all have come to this great nation and many have died so I could pastor/coach and play football on Friday night,” said Mitchem.