As protests from NFL players during the national anthem and the reactions from owners, fans and politicians continue to spark debate, a former college football player is speaking out after he was cut from the team for kneeling during the national anthem.
“At some point in life, there’s going to be a time when you’ve got to take a stand,” said Gyree Durante. “For me it just happened to be on Saturday afternoon.”
The Norristown native is a sophomore at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, and was a backup quarterback on the football team. On Saturday, for the second game in a row, Durante kneeled during the national anthem, a gesture that he said was a protest against social injustices and racism in the country. After doing so, he was kicked off the team.
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“I was just taught you fight for what you believe in and you don’t bow to anyone,” Durante said. “I believe heavily in this. So I decided to fight for it.”
A spokeswoman for Albright College said in a statement to NBC10 that Durante was kicked off the team for going against a unified decision.
The players made a team-wide decision to kneel during the coin toss and stand during the national anthem before their Oct. 7 game against Delaware Valley University, according to the spokeswoman.
“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,” she wrote. “It was established as a way to find common ground in a world with many differing views.”
The spokeswoman said the action was recommended by the team’s leadership council, which is made up of 24 student-athletes selected annually by team members. She also said the players had an understanding that there may be consequences for anyone who chose not to support the team.
“One football player, who unbeknownst to the coach and the team, chose not to support team unity and has been dismissed from the team,” she wrote. “He remains a valued member of the Albright College student body.”
Two of Durante’s former teammates, freshmen Stephen Glynn and Josh Powell, told NBC10 they understood where he was coming from when he decided to protest but also believe he acted selfishly and broke the team’s trust. They claim Durante agreed to stand for the anthem after the team came to a unified decision.
“We trusted him throughout the week, after time and time again he told us he would stand,” Powell said. “When you can’t have a player on a team that you can trust, he’s got to go.”
Durante’s family posted on social media that the issue was bigger than football and that they hoped the incident motivated him even more to fight social injustice. Durante says he will continue to stand up for what he believes in and is considering transferring in the near future.