Two high school football players in Texas who mirrored the national anthem protests of the National Football League were kicked off their team for refusing to honor the flag before their game on Friday night.
Unlike the millionaires of the NFL – who suffered no discipline for refusing to pay tribute to the nation and the flag – the two players at Victory & Praise Christian Academy discovered that their coach was serious when he said that anti-American displays are not tolerated on his team.
“Cedric Ingram-Lewis raised his fist while cousin Larry McCullough knelt during the anthem ahead of the team’s game against Providence Classical,” the Houston Chronicle reported.
This country protects you … you respect it
As a military veteran, the team’s coach gave his players the clear message that disrespecting the flag – and those who protect them inside and outside America’s borders – is not an option.
“After the anthem ended, head coach Ronnie Mitchem instructed them to take off their uniforms and kicked them off the team,” the Chronicle’s Adam Coleman informed. “Mitchem is a former Marine and pastor who started the church-based football program in Crosby six years ago.”
The protest was premeditated, and players knew ahead of time that their coach was adamant about honoring the nation during the national anthem.
“Ingram-Lewis, a sophomore, said the topic of protesting had come up in the locker room before and his cousin McCullough, a senior, even announced he would kneel via social media,” Coleman noted. “The coach had told players he did not want anyone to kneel, citing his service in the military.”
Ingram-Lewis said that Mitchem was clear about his stance and policy concerning national anthem protests.
“He told us that disrespect will not be tolerated,” Lewis recalled about his coach’s response just seconds after the conclusion of the anthem, according to the Chronicle. “He told us to take off our uniform and leave it there.”
McCullough recounted yanking off his equipment on the field before the sound of the first whistle blew to begin the matchup between the Victory & Praise Sharks and Providence Classical.
“He had me and CJ strip down – our uniform, pads, the pants and all – in front of everyone,” McCullough told Reuters.
A culture of respect, not disrespect
The patriotic Christian veteran wanted his players to demonstrate respect and honor for their country on the field.
“Mitchem said he believes kneeling during the anthem is offensive and offends veterans who have fought for this country,” Newsmax reported.
The Marine veteran had made it clear to his players exactly where he stood concerning anthem protests, and he asserted that the two players knew what they were doing and were willing to suffer the ramifications for their actions.
“That was my point of view,” Mitchem expressed, according to Newsmax. “Like I said, I’m a former Marine. That just doesn’t fly and they knew that.”
He said the decision was simply based on principle – and was not personal.
“I don’t have any problem with those young men,” Mitchem added. “We’ve had a good relationship. They chose to do that and they had to pay for the consequences.”
Mitchem was quick to defend his actions and made no apologies about his decision to kick both players off the field.
“As a veteran, I have a strong view of what I feel is disrespectful,” the head coach expressed in an interview over the weekend, according to the Washington Post.
He indicated that he specifically addressed the issue at the team’s practice on Thursday – the day before the game – insisting that he gave all his players a fair warning about what would happen if they decided to protest the anthem.
“If you do that, your career as a Shark is over,” Mitchem repeated his warning given to all players at practice.
Despite the warning – and clearly understanding the consequences – both players decided to reject their coach’s advice and move forward with their protest on game day.
“It was really showing the injustice for black people,” McCullough told KPRC. “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.”
Football stadiums: Sports arenas … or political arenas?
Mitchem impressed the fact that he has no problem with players voicing their opinions and beliefs, but he also stressed that there is a proper time, place and manner in which such views should be expressed – and contended that a football game is not the right venue.
“If they feel strongly about that, that’s something that should be addressed,” Mitchem pointed out, according to the Washington Post. “But my whole point was, there was a proper time – and I told the team this – there’s a proper time to do something, and a proper way.”
However, Ingram-Lewis’ mother did not agree with the way in which Mitchem handled the situation and expressed that she was not happy with his decision to kick the players off the team – even though he forewarned everyone on the team about his policy of respect on the field.
“He has like a slave-master mentality,” Rhonda Brady alleged, according to the Post. “If you would go back to that, when they wanted to tell us, ‘This is what you’re going to do and this is how you’re going to do it,’ and if we didn’t comply, we were beaten, whooped, or even killed.”
Emulating the NFL
Lewis and McCullough used NFL players as role models when staging their protests, which many Americans – including patriotic conservatives, NFL fans and President Donald Trump – consider to be an affront to the nation.
“Their demonstration came as the National Football League faces a storm of controversy over the [former San Francisco 49ers quarterback] Colin Kaepernick-inspired protests against police brutality and racial injustice – a fiery debate that has pulled President Trump into its vortex,” the Post recounted. “And while the NFL continued to see protests Sunday, the movement has spread to the lower levels of athletic play, but with different consequences.”
The NFL’s decision to allow its players to break the rules and dishonor the flag during the national anthem is not being reciprocated in amateur sports – so far.
“While professional teams have grudgingly embraced their players’ right to free speech, college and high school athletic programs have been less comfortable with the collision between sports and protests,” the Post’s Kyle Swenson noted.
In addition to Mitchum taking a stand against the unpatriotic displays of Lewis and McCullough, a college to the north and another high school to the east have also insisted that their players honor the flag and the country it represents.
“Last week, the College of the Ozarks, a Christian college in Branson, Mo., announced that none of its athletic teams will play against competitors who do not stand for the anthem,” Swenson pointed out. “The principal of a high school in Bossier City, La., recently sent a letter home to students announcing that any player protesting during the anthem would lose playing time.”
Copyright American Family News. Reprinted with permission.