It is no secret that protests during the national anthem are a hot-button issue, especially within the last week.
Each player, coach and fan has his or her own perspective on what place the protests have in society. One coach in suburban Houston appears to have a clear policy, as evidenced by his actions Friday night.
Two Victory & Praise Christian (Crosby, Texas) football players were kicked off the team for protesting during the national anthem, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Per the Chronicle, Victory Praise & Christian’s Cedric Ingram-Lewis raised his fist while cousin Larry McCullough knelt during the anthem ahead of the team’s game against Providence Classical (Spring, Texas).
Once the anthem ended, Victory head coach Ronnie Mitchem instructed the players to take off their uniforms and immediately dismissed them from the team. Mitchem, the Chronicle reports, is a former Marine and pastor who started the church-based football program six years ago.
Ingram-Lewis, a sophomore, told the Chronicle the topic of protesting had come up in the locker room and that his cousin McCullough, a senior, announced via social media that he would kneel. The coach had let the players know that he did not want anyone to kneel.
“He told us that disrespect will not be tolerated,” Lewis told the Chronicle, recalling the moments after the anthem ended. “He told us to take off our uniform and leave it there.”
Lewis’ mother Rhonda Brady supported her son and nephew and told the Chronicle she was surprised by the coach’s reaction, deeming it out of line.
“I’m definitely going to have a conversation because I don’t like the way that that was handled,” Brady said. “But I don’t want them back on the team. A man with integrity and morals and ethics and who truly lives by that wouldn’t have done anything like that.
“Actions speak louder than words. So, for him to do what he did, that really spoke volumes and I don’t want my kids or my nephew to be around a man with no integrity.”
Mitchem told the Chronicle that he thought he had a deal with his players that no one would kneel during the anthem.
In Mitchem’s view, kneeling at that time offends people and veterans who have fought for this country and takes away from the focus on the issues.
“That was my point of view,” Mitchem said. “Like I said, 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.”