Two football players in Texas were kicked off their local six-a-side team and were told to remove their uniforms after they knelt and one raised his fist during the National Anthem before a game, the players and their coach said.
The two players for the Victory & Praise Worship Center team, Larry McCullough, 18, and Cedric Ingram-Lewis, 16, told NBC affiliate KPRC of Houston that the dismissal Friday night was immediate and in front of fans.
"I wasn't trying to disrespect the flag," McCullough told the station, saying he was following the example of numerous players in the National Football League. "It was really showing the injustice for black people," he said.
Their coach, Ronnie Mitchem, pastor of the independent Full Gospel church in Brady, a suburb of Houston, said in a statement Saturday on Facebook that he loved McCullough and Ingram-Lewis and had sought to give them a way to protest that he "felt was fair."
"I want to be clear that I don't have a problem with people protesting if it is done the right way," he wrote. "But to disrespect the flag that gives us the right to protest is the wrong way to do it."
In a followup statement on Sunday, Mitchem said: "We don't receive any state or government money. I started the program and have no plans on firing myself."