“We will not kneel:” High school football players kicked off team over national anthem protest

CROSBY, Texas — Two high school football players have been kicked off their team after protesting during the national anthem.

According to the Victory & Praise Christian Academy football team’s coach, one player knelt while another raised his fist. Both players said they believe now is an important time to raise awareness.

Their actions came after NFL players have been criticized by President Donald Trump for not standing during the anthem.

Ronnie Mitchem, the team’s head coach is a former Marine, and said he had an understanding with his players that protesting wouldn’t be acceptable.

“‘Guys,’ I said, ‘you know, we will not kneel on the national anthem. If you do this,’ I said ‘your days playing for the Sharks are over,'” Mitchem said.

“‘It was an honor to have you on this football team, but I’m not going to allow you to disrespect the flag.’ And he told us to take our stuff off as I was walking away. He said ‘take your stuff off. Take it off now,'” said Larry McCollough, who was kicked off the team. “I really felt humiliated, to have to undress in front of everyone there. Like from my pads to my pants, in front of everyone.”

“It’s a perfect time right now to raise awareness,” said Cedric Ingram, who was kicked off the team.

“Just seeing the violence and stuff like that happen in the world, that’s why it’s so important to me,” McCollough said.

“We can do it another way. I don’t have a problem with you protesting. I came up with some ideas, maybe they weren’t great ideas, but I was trying to come with other ideas that maybe we can do,” Mitchem said. “I still love them. I understand what they feel, but as a coach, we have rules and I don’t want people disrespecting the veterans in that Shark uniform.”

“Me and Cedric have people in our family who have served and who are serving now. And we talked about it with them and they wereOK with it. They don’t see anything wrong with it because they know we’re not disrespecting them or what they’re fighting for for us,” McCollough said.

The mother of one of the players said she supports their actions and considers the coach’s punishment as excessive.