Two high school football players in Texas were kicked off their team for protesting during the national anthem Friday.
Cedric Ingram-Lewis raised a fist while his cousin, Larry McCullough, kneeled during the national anthem.
The cousins, both students at Victory & Praise Christian Academy, said that after the anthem ended, their coach, Ronnie Mitchem, told them to remove their uniforms because they were being kicked them off the team, the Houston Chronicle reported.
“He told us that disrespect will not be tolerated,” Ingram-Lewis told the Chronicle, adding that right after the anthem ended, Mitchem “told us to take off our uniform and leave it there.”
Mitchem, a former Marine and pastor, had warned players not to kneel during the anthem, according to the pair of teammates.
Players kneel during the national anthem
But Ingram-Lewis insisted on protesting, and announced he would kneel via social media.
Ingram-Lewis’ mother, Rhonda Brady, said she was supportive of the students’ decision to protest.
She disputes the coach’s reaction to the incident.
“I’m definitely going to have a conversation because I don’t like the way that was handled,” Brady told the Chronicle.
But she said she doesn’t want her son and nephew to be coached by Mitchem anymore.
“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,” she said.
“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 doesn’t want the boys back on the team either.
Athletes standing up against social injustice during National Anthem
He said he thought the players understood that they weren’t permitted to kneel during the anthem. He said kneeling after a touchdown, or other forms of protest would have been permissible, according to the Chronicle.
Mitchem said he stands against kneeling because he believes it’s offensive to veterans.
“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,” Mitchem told the Chronicle.
An increasing number of National Football League players have started to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality in the United States.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kicked off the movement by kneeling in protest last year.
Kaepernick was later cut from the 49ers and remains a free agent.