Albright cuts football player for kneeling during anthem

READING, Pa. - A backup quarterback for Albright College in Reading has been cut for kneeling during the national anthem.

Sophomore Gyree Durante took a knee before Saturday's game. He said he was "taught you fight for what you believe in and you don't bow to anyone."

"He has a purpose for kneeling. You don't know that purpose necessarily, so you shouldn't just kick him off the team," voiced sophomore Destiny Larry.

Freshman Thad Wiseman took a different stance.

"That flag stands for the people that fought for this country, for our freedom," he said, "so you're disrespecting those people and the families who lost their relatives and stuff in the war."

The school said Wednesday that Durante was cut because he violated a team decision to show unity by kneeling during the coin toss, but standing during the anthem.

"This action, which was supported by the coaching staff, was created as an expression of team unity and out of the mutual respect team members have for one another and the value they place on their differences," the school said in its statement. "It was established as a way to find common ground in a world with many differing views."

The school said the players understood there could be consequences for anyone who didn't support the team's decision.

The statement from the football team, which the school said was read before the team took the field Saturday, reads in part:

"We storm this field behind the American Flag as a symbol of our commitment, our unity and the value we place on our freedoms. We both kneel and stand tall out of the mutual respect we have for each other and the value we place on our differences; because we believe that teamwork is not about tolerating our differences, but about valuing them."

Michael Miller, a former Albright lineman, was teammates with Durante for two seasons, though they weren't close. He spoke about how tightly knit the program was and still is. 

"Kind of what they says goes, but that's what you sign up for being part of a team like this," said Miller.

Miller said he's not surprised that somebody would stand up for what they believe in, but he is surprised that someone would defy the coach and the players.

Professional and college football players and athletes in other sports have been kneeling or protesting during the anthem. The movement was started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick last season over his view of police mistreatment of black males.

Albright's announcement Wednesday came a day after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a memo to all 32 teams in an effort to end the controversy.

"Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem. It is an important moment in our game," Goodell wrote in the memo. "We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us."

The NFL's current anthem policy states that players "should" stand for the anthem, but does not require it.

President Donald Trump has called on NFL owners to fire players who do not stand for the anthem, and Vice President Mike Pence walked out of the Indianapolis Colts' home game against San Francisco on Sunday after seeing more than 20 49ers players kneeling with their hands over their hearts for the second straight week.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he would bench any player who kneeled for the anthem.

"If there's anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play," Jones said.

Unlike the NFL, the NBA requires its players to stand for the anthem.

"It's been our rule for as long as I've been involved with the league," said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, "and my expectation is that our players will continue to stand for the anthem."

As for players who might decline to stand for the anthem, Silver said, "If that were to happen, we'll deal with it when it happens."

The NHL said it encourages its players to participate in social and political causes on their own time.

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