(CROSBY, Texas) — Two Texas high school football players are at the center of a national debate after they were kicked off their team for protesting the national anthem on Friday night.
Cedric Ingram-Lewis and Larry McCullough said they told their coach, Ronnie Ray Mitchem of Victory & Praise Christian Academy, their plan before the game. Mitchem, a veteran, said the private team has a long-standing rule that players are not allowed to kneel during the anthem, according to ABC station KTRK-TV.
The coach said he told the players if they went ahead with their plan, it would be offensive to him as well as the other veterans in the stands, KTRK-TV reports.
After Ingram-Lewis and McCullough kneeled on Friday night, Mitchem walked over to them, shook their hands, and told them to take off their uniforms, according to KTRK-TV.
“If that’s what he believes, that’s what he believes,” McCullough said. “I don’t have nothing against what he believes. Even though he brings up that he was in the Marines, we have people in our family that served in the Marines, Army, and military. And people are serving now, and they believe that we did is right. And for him to feel that way, that’s just how he feels.”
Mitchem, who said he stopped watching the NFL because of the recent protests, told KTRK-TV he tried to work out other ways the players could protest, just not during the national anthem.
“I have personal opinions too and as an American I have a right to those opinions,” Mitchem said to KTRK-TV. “And I expressed those, and I just asked that we not do that.”
Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.