HS and College Football Players Are Being Unfairly Penalized for National Anthem Protests

A handful of high school and college football players have been cut from teams or suspended for making the decision to kneel during the national anthem.

49ers players kneel during the national anthem.

Image via Getty/Michael Zagaris/Contributor

49ers players kneel during the national anthem.

According to a report that was released on Tuesday, the 32 NFL owners are apparently thinking about creating a new rule as early as next week that would require all players to stand during the national anthem moving forward. It’s unclear whether players would actually abide by the rule—and what penalties they might face if they don't—but at the very least, the NFL owners are reportedly going to try and make standing during the Star-Spangled Banner mandatory, which would pretty much show where the NFL as a whole stands when it comes to national anthem protests. And it would likely decrease the number of players who #TakeAKnee prior to NFL games for a very important cause.

Roger Goodell to NFL owners: "We believe everyone should stand for the National Anthem."

(h/t @NBCNews) pic.twitter.com/DZft5SQWoR

— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) October 10, 2017

Those who want to see NFL players continue to stand up for what they believe in by getting down on one knee are, justifiably, upset about the fact that the NFL owners are even considering such a rule in the first place. But it’s worth noting that some high school and college football players have been subjected to such a rule for months now, and it has prevented them from openly joining in the protests that Colin Kaepernick started back in the summer of 2016. Unlike their NFL counterparts, many of these players have been unfairly penalized with suspensions and even dismissals from teams for taking a knee before games.

Most recently, a Division III football player named Gyree Durante, a backup quarterback at Allbright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, was kicked off his team after he decided to kneel during the national anthem prior to a game against Delaware Valley University. It seems the leadership council for the Allbright team, which reportedly consists of 24 players, voted to kneel during the coin toss instead of kneeling during the anthem before the game. So when Durante went against their wishes and knelt on his own during the anthem, he, unfortunately, got the ax. He was booted from the team and had his name removed from the team’s roster on the college’s website immediately, according to ESPN.

But Durante is far from the first high school or college player to have this happen to him. Here are some other notable examples that illustrate how some high school and college teams are going to extreme measures in an effort to prevent players from taking a knee during the anthem.

To the parents of @MichaelLynnIII, your son is a phenomenally caring and thoughtful man! What a job you have done! https://t.co/0QjblhSnRY

— Bill Vliek BLM (@billvliek) October 7, 2017

Players: Cedric Ingram-Lewis and Larry McCullough of Victory & Praise Christian Academy in Crosby, Texas
Date: September 2017
Penalty: Victory & Praise head coach Ronnie Mitchem, a former Marine, told his players they wouldn’t be permitted to protest at all during the national anthem this season. Ingram-Lewis and McCullough decided to do it anyway prior to a game—Ingram-Lewis raised a fist on the field, while McCullough took a knee—and Mitchem told both players to take their uniforms off immediately and leave the field. The coach later told the Houston Chronicle he would not permit either player back on the team.

Thanks to all your love and support my suspension of 1 game has been terminated! pic.twitter.com/a8RB9c200N

Players: Michael Lynn III, Matthew Abdullah, Kabbash Richards, and Roje Williams of Lansing Catholic High School in Lansing, Michigan
Date: October 2017
Penalty: Lynn III, who is Lansing Catholic's starting quarterback, and his three teammates were told by their head coach Jim Ahern that they would start a game—their homecoming game, no less—on the bench if they took a knee during the national anthem as they had previously planned to do. The four players went through with it anyway, though, and got down on a knee as the anthem played, leading all four to be benched. Lynn III told the Lansing State Journal that the situation felt like "oppression" to him. "This feels like you’re trying to silence me," he said, "and it feels like you’re not giving me the right to do what Americans should be able to do."

Beaumont Bulls youth football team continues national anthem… https://t.co/PHGZwolgzx #BEScores @Beaumont_Sports pic.twitter.com/M0wsqwyqzX

— Beaumont Enterprise (@BmtEnterprise) September 19, 2016

Players: Entire Parkway High School team in Bossier City, Louisiana
Date: September 2017
Penalty: Although he didn’t actually dish out any penalties, Parkway principal Waylon Bates made national headlines when he sent out a letter to Parkway student-athletes telling them they were required to "stand in a respectful manner" during the national anthem. If they didn’t, he threatened a "loss of playing time" or "removal from the team."

Parkway football players responded to the letter by linking arms during the national anthem rather than kneeling, according to the Washington Post. But it led to a backlash from the ACLU of Louisiana against the school.

If your public school is requiring you to stand for the national anthem, contact us. #StudentsRights https://t.co/sMG3siPc7b

— ACLU of Florida (@ACLUFL) October 3, 2017

Player: Mike Oppong of Doherty Memorial High School in Worchester, Massachusetts
Date: September 2016
Penalty: After Oppong took a knee during the national anthem, he claimed his coaches and the principal of his school told him he would be suspended for one game. However, after a lot of outrage online, the local school district reportedly rescinded the suspension, according to USA Today High School Sports, and said that Oppong "did not violate any school rule when he peacefully and silently protested during the national anthem." Oppong thanked people for their support.

Oppong also said that he planned to continue kneeling throughout the duration of the high school football season. "I’m standing up for the injustice that happens to black people everyday, not just cops killing black people," he said. "We are mistreated and disrespected everywhere we go on a daily basis because of our skin color and I’m sick of it."

Players: Entire Beaumont Bulls team in Beaumont, Texas
Date: September 2016
Penalty: The Bulls team, which was made up of 11 and 12-year-old players, was disbanded shortly after members of the team decided to launch a protest against racism by kneeling during the national anthem before a game. They actually stuck together long enough to protest before a second game, but at that point, their coach was dismissed from his position by the team’s leadership, according to ABC 13, and when that happened, 14 of the 19 players on the team refused to play unless the coach was reinstated. Leadership balked at their demand, and the remainder of the season was canceled. Several NFL players stepped up last summer and pledged more than $20,000 to help the former Bulls players start a new youth football team.

Player: Entire Manatee High School team in Bradenton, Florida
Date: September 2017
Penalty: Even though Manatee football players typically stayed in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem in past years, the Manatee County School District sent out a reminder to all middle and high school sports coaches in the area telling them that protesting during the national anthem was against the code of conduct that is in place. Students in the area, in conjunction with the NAACP and other organizations, protested that letter and argued against the school district’s protest policy. "This is a threat to students’ civil liberties and I find myself wondering what other rights my school district might take away from us if we let them get away with this," one student said told the Bradenton Herald.

Player: Gyree Durante of Allbright College in Reading, Pennsylvania
Date: October 2017
Penalty: As previously mentioned, Durante was kicked off the Allbright team for taking a knee during the national anthem prior to a recent game. He explained his decision to do it during an interview with NBC 10. "At some point in life, there’s going to be a time when you’ve got to take a stand," he said. "For me, it just happened to be on Saturday afternoon. I was just taught you fight for what you believe in, and you don’t bow to anyone. I believe heavily in this, so I decided to fight for it."

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