A Muslim community college basketball player in Kansas was cut from his team after taking warmup shots while the national anthem played, and then filed a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The ACLU followed up by sending Garden City Community College (GCCC) a letter claiming that the Muslim player, Rasool Samir, was not protesting, but rather simply refraining from observing the national anthem because his Muslim faith forbids him from acts of reverence to anything but the god of Islam.
Protest or act of faith?
Instead of leaving the court during the anthem on Nov. 1, Samir decided to take warmup shots while others in the arena observed the flag before a game – which noticeably upset boosters – and triggered immediate action from his coach.
“After the anthem, a GCCC booster came onto the court and confronted Samir about disrespecting the flag, allegedly pushing and grabbing the player before security separated the two and a coach escorted Samir to the locker room,” TheBlaze reported. “The complaint claims that once Samir got in the locker room, the coach ordered Samir to leave the arena and return to his dorm.”
After confronting Samir on the court, the Broncbuster booster, Jim Howard – who was allowed to return to his seat for the game after the incident – came forward to discuss his reaction to the player’s non-observance.
“I’ve had enough of disrespecting our flag,” Howard told the Garden City Telegram. “I’ve been raising money for 32 years for this college, trying to help pay for scholarships for these kids. If they’re not going to respect our flag, then they need to get off our campus and out of Garden City.”
And unlike the NFL, the Kansas college had little tolerance for refusal to respect the country – and college rules – and the coach followed up by allegedly kicking the player off the team, but GCCC Director of Athletics John Green maintained that it was Samir’s decision to actually unenroll from the college.
“Later that same day, Coach Brady Trenkle met with Samir to discuss the incident,” TheBlaze’s Aaron Colen informed. “During that meeting, Samir says Trenkle told him he was being dismissed from the team and purchased Samir’s plane ticket back to his hometown of Philadelphia.”
According to the ACLU and the local paper, Samir apologized for shooting around during the anthem.
“[I did not] mean any disrespect at all to the fans or the flag at last night’s game,” Samir said, according to the Kansas daily. “I am truly sorry to anyone that felt disrespected, and I am also sorry to the school. I apologize for what happened.”
On the other hand, another reason was given for Samir’s dismissal.
“The college says Samir was dismissed for a team rules violation because he did not leave the court with his teammates when the anthem was played,” Wichita’s KWCH 12 reported.
Green indicated that Samir’s behavior after the anthem incident spurred the final decision to boot him from the team, and a Garden City Community College statement gives a detailed response to the issue.
“This dismissal is not related to the national anthem, but for conduct following the event,” Green announced, according to the local station.
The ACLU is pressing GCCC to provide a clarification for its reasoning behind Samir’s dismissal from the team.
“…GCCC’s inconsistent explanations have made it difficult to ascertain the school’s official position as to why Samir is no longer on the team roster,” the ACLU stated in its letter to the school. “These shifting explanations also suggest that neither reason is true. Because we are concerned that Samir was kicked off the team for exercising his First Amendment rights, we ask that you please provide us with GCCC’s response to his allegations.”
The letter also contends that anti-American demonstrations are consistent with its own brand of “American values.”
“We believe any disciplinary action by GCCC against Mr. Samir for abstaining from the anthem is antithetical to our American values and a violation of his First Amendment rights,” the ACLU letter issued Nov. 9 expressed.
ACLU Legal Director Lauren Bonds, who penned the letter, is using conflicting accounts disseminated by the media in an attempt to invalidate the GCCC’s dismissal of Samir.
“I think our objective with the letter is to discern the inconsistencies in statements to the media,” Bonds told the Garden City Telegram Wednesday afternoon.
Bonds claimed that GCCC’s dismissal was unconstitutional by citing a dozen or more judicial rulings to indicate that Samir should not have been disciplined for abstaining from the anthem at a public institution.
“It’s a kind of compelled patriotic salutes that we don’t think should be the basis on if a student-athlete is allowed to participate in athletics,” Bonds argued in the letter she said was issued simply to gather information.
She suggested that the ACLU will sue if her leftist legal group does not deem GCCC’s response satisfactory, but noted that when her organization has implemented its routine intimidation tactics by sending demand letters to address similar situations across the nation, the matters are quickly resolved.
“Because we are concerned that Samir was kicked off the team for exercising his First Amendment rights, we ask that you please provide us with GCCC’s response to (Samir’s) allegations,” Bonds expressed in the letter. “In particular, we request any documentation you have that establishes Samir: (1) was not chastised by Coach Trenkle for refusing to salute the flag; (2) was not ordered to leave Conestoga Arena for asserting his right to abstain from the anthem; (3) left the team voluntarily; and (4) was dismissed from the team due to a violation of team rules that carries the penalty of dismissal.”