Two Texas high school students were kicked off their football team after protesting during the national anthem ahead of a game on Friday.
Cedric Ingram-Lewis and Larry McCullough, who attend Two Victory & Praise Christian Academy in Crosby, said they protested to raise awareness about police brutality and racial injustice in America.
Ingram-Lewis, a 16-year-old sophomore, raised his fist during the national anthem while his cousin, McCullough, 18, kneeled before their game against Providence Classical.
The team's coach, Ronnie Mitchem, immediately asked the teens to remove their uniforms after the anthem was finished.
“[Mitchem] said, ‘It was an honor having you on this team, but I won’t tolerate the disrespect. He asked us to take off our whole uniform,” Ingram-Lewis told InsideEdition.com. “I was perfectly fine with it. I stood up for what I believed in, to get the message across about all of the police brutality and the oppression of black people in America.”
The teen said Mitchem, who is a former Marine, had made statements in practice about kneeling during the anthem and allegedly said if anyone was to do so, they would be removed from the team.
The coach said he had given players alternative options to protest.
“I want to be clear that I don't have a problem with people protesting if it is done the right way. But to disrespect the flag that gives us the right to protest is the wrong way to do it,” Mitchem wrote in a statement on his Facebook page.
The teens said that Mitchem previously told them they could kneel after a touchdown or post flyers about why they kneel, but the teens said those gestures would not have had the same meaning.
“I thought we’d have punishment during practice. I was shocked that he told us to take off our uniform in front of everyone, but I got my point across,” McCullough said. “I am really going to miss playing football because this is my senior year.”
Mitchem has coached the teens for the past two seasons.
The coach wrote on his Facebook page that he loves the two young men but did not believe in the “disrespect.”
The teens said they have received death threats as a result of their protest. Their actions come amid numerous NFL players choosing to kneel during the anthem as a stand against racism. The protests have caused a storm of controversy.
“We have people telling us that we deserved to be kicked off the team, but we have a lot of support as well,” McCullough said.