Two Victory & Praise Christian Academy football players were kicked off the team for protesting during the national anthem at a game Friday night.
Cedric Ingram-Lewis raised his fist while cousin Larry McCullough knelt during the anthem ahead of the team’s game against Providence Classical.
After the anthem ended, head coach Ronnie Mitchem instructed them to take off their uniforms and kicked them off the team. Mitchem is a former Marine and pastor who started the church-based football program in Crosby six years ago.
“He told us that disrespect will not be tolerated,” Lewis said, recalling the moments after the anthem ended. “He told us to take off our uniform and leave it there.”
Lewis’ mother Rhonda Brady supported her son and nephew being inspired to protest, saying it was completely their decision.
She was surprised by the coach’s reaction, however, deeming it out of line.
“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.”
The coach is also content with not having the pair back on the team.
Mitchem said the pair left him no choice. He thought he had a deal with his players that no one would kneel. He said he supported the pair protesting, but wanted them to do it in other ways – kneeling after a touchdown in the end zone or writing and passing out a paper about the issues.
Mitchem believes the kneeling offends people and veterans who have fought for this country and takes away from the focus on the issues.
“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.”
This is all in response to an increasing number of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice and police brutality in this country. The face of that protest is former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt last year to bring awareness to the issues.