Cedric Ingram-Lewis and his cousin Larry McCullough were booted from their football team at Victory & Praise Christian Academy after they refused to stand upright as the national anthem played before a game.
Cedric Ingram-Lewis & Larry McCullough were kicked off of their football team last night. Cedric raised a fist. Larry took a knee.— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) September 30, 2017
Ingram-Lewis raised his fist and McCullough took a knee before their game against Providence Classical. Reports suggest that the two players were forced by the head coach Ronnie Mitchem to take their jerseys off on the field after the anthem played.
The national anthem was apparently a contentious issue in the locker room. Mitchem, a former Marine and pastor, founded the team as part of a church-based football program in Crosby six years ago. He cited his military career and told the players that “disrespect will not be tolerated,” Lewis said.
Lewis’ mother, Rhonda Brady, said she is proud of her son and nephew. Brady does not want the boys to be a part of the team after the treatment meted out to them.
"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."
For his part, Mitchem has no regrets and does not want the boys back on the team.
"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 added that he had warned the players against this form of protest. Although he said he supports the pair protesting, he had issues with them doing so in the tradition set by Colin Kaepernick. He would have rather have them passing around a paper on which they had written their issues, or kneeling after a touchdown in the end zone.
This is not the first instance of schools penalizing students for this nonviolent protest. In Louisiana, schools are threatening students with suspension, extra running, and removal from teams if they choose to kneel. One principal even went as far as to sending letters warning parents of the consequences of the protest.
This, as American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana pointed out, violates the athletes’ First Amendment rights. The ACLU has also sent notices to schools in Louisiana who wish to police the students’ actions.
In September last year, Mike Oppong, a junior quarterback and defensive back at Doherty High School in Worcester, MA, knelt during the national anthem and was subsequently suspended. After public outcry, the suspension was lifted.