We see it on the news every day, mostly in far off, more liberal parts of the country located on both coasts. The American traditions and belief systems are being challenged by those who do not accept, or who do not feel a part of, those traditions and systems. Take for instance, the huge stir up in the NFL over the National Anthem, that has caused divisiveness and economic disarray in the country.
That same issue has now arrived on our doorstep. On November 1, the Garden City Community College Broncbuster mens’ basketball season was about to begin the 2017-18 season as the crowd stood for the traditional playing of the National Anthem. A GCCC basketball player appeared under the east basket and began shooting the ball during the anthem. As the usual tradition, head coach Brady Trenkle and the team were still in the locker room.
The player, identified as Rasool Samir, is a red-shirt athlete this year. He stayed under the basket shooting for the duration of the anthem, while the entire arena stood staring at the flag located on the same side where Samir was shooting.
When the anthem ended, a local fan and board member on the Broncbuster’s Athletic Association, a fundraising group, Jim Howard came out of the stands to confront Samir. They exchanged heated words until the campus police intervened. A key detail has since been debated as to whether Howard touched the student, although most agree he reached for Samir’s arm several times. At any rate, Samir was escorted out and Howard went back to his seat to applause from several of the fans in the arena.
It was not clear why Samir had left his teammates and coach in the locker room in order to be in the gym shooting as he did. Howard, on his part, was interviewed by the local Garden City Telegram, indicating, “I’ve had enough of disrespecting our flag. 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.”
Reportedly, Samir issued an apology over twitter stating he meant no disrespect to the fans or the flag. Samir, who is from Philadelphia, did not say why he was under the basket in the first place as the team, per years of tradition, was in the locker room for pre-game preparations. The Telegram reports, Samir, a black Muslim, did, however, state he does not respect the flag because of religious beliefs. “Even in high school, I never stood for the anthem. People worship the flag, and I don’t do that,” he said. “When I was in high school, no one said anything to me,” he said. “I was just shooting (the ball). I didn’t think I was being disrespectful. I wasn’t doing it just to make anybody mad.”
The college’s Athletic Director, John Green, who was not present at the game, gave a statement the next day stating the college was looking into the incident and would stay pro-active.
However, by Friday afternoon Samir has taken a plane back to Philadelphia after reportedly giving up his scholarship and dropping out of GCCC. Samir met with Green and head coach Brady Trenkle on Friday morning and a statement of Samir’s resignation came out of that meeting. Disciplinary action was considered based on Samir’s actions at the bench when the team came out that including disrespectful address to the coach. However, by Friday afternoon, Samir had indicated to the Telegram that he was forced to quit by Trenkle.
Samir has since filed a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who sent a letter to GCCC seeking clarification as to why Samir is no longer enrolled at the college. The letter further indicates that the college may have violated Samir’s First Amendment rights.
GCCC administration has replied to the ACLU request for clarification through a letter drafted by their lawyers.
As of two days ago, the fall out continues as Howard now says he has been voted out of his position as a Broncbuster Athletic Association board member because of his actions against the former student Samir.
Further, according to a letter obtained by the Telegram, the GCCC Police Department, who was not present during the incident, is investigating whether they will prosecute Howard for battery, assault or disorderly conduct charges.
As these incidents were unfolding in the Telegram, it became quite evident that the divisiveness in the country has arrived on our doorstep as the comments on their webpage ranged from mostly supportive of Howard; but, also some extremely vicious comments directed toward Howard and the college, as well.