A Muslim former basketball player at a Kansas community college has filed a First Amendment complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union after being kicked off the team days after not observing the national anthem before a game.
The player, Rasool Samir, was not protesting; rather, he does not observe the anthem because his Muslim faith prohibits acts of reverence to anything but God, according to the ACLU's letter to the school.
On Nov. 1, Samir did not leave the court with his Garden City Community College teammates when the anthem was played. Instead, he continued shooting warm-up shots as the song played.
After the anthem, a GCCC booster came onto the court and confronted Samir about disrespecting the flag, allegedly pushing and grabbing the player before security separated the two and a coach escorted Samir to the locker room.
The complaint claims that once Samir got in the locker room, the coach ordered Samir to leave the arena and return to his dorm.
Later that same day, Coach Brady Trenkle met with Samir to discuss the incident. During that meeting, Samir said Trenkle told him he was being dismissed from the team and purchased Samir’s plane ticket back to his hometown of Philadelphia.
Booster comes forward
The booster who confronted Samir on the court was Jim Howard.
“I’ve had enough of disrespecting our flag,” Howard said to the Garden City Telegram. “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.”
Reasons for dismissal
Garden City Community College said Samir was dismissed for a team rules violation; specifically, for not leaving the court with his teammates during the anthem, according to KWCH 12 in Wichita.
Athletic Director John Green said Samir made the decision to withdraw from the college on his own, but seemed to contradict the school's initial statement by saying that something after the anthem incident led to Samir's dismissal from the team.
"This dismissal is not related to the national anthem, but for conduct following the event,” Green said.
ACLU contacts Garden City
The ACLU sent a letter to Garden City Community College asking the school to clarify the reasons for Samir’s dismissal.
“…GCCC’s inconsistent explanations have made it difficult to ascertain the school’s official position as to why Samir is no longer on the team roster,” the letter reads. “These shifting explanations also suggest that neither reason is true.
“Because we are concerned that Samir was kicked off the team for exercising his First Amendment rights, we ask that you please provide us with GCCC’s response to his allegations.”