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Back on the Team After Taking a Knee

Albright booted a football player after he protested during the national anthem. Now he’s been offered his spot back.

October 18, 2017
 
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Albright College has reversed its decision to kick a football player off the team after he knelt for the national anthem.

In a statement, President Jacquelyn Fetrow said that an “ongoing review of the details surrounding the game’s events has provided greater clarity.”

Gyree Durante, the quarterback, was dismissed from the team by John Marzka, the head coach, after he knelt during the national anthem before an Oct. 7 game. The team had agreed to take a knee during the coin toss and stand for the anthem as part of ongoing protests against police brutality and racism. Two students who “did not fully kneel” for the coin toss -- thus violating that part of the team's agreement -- were also kicked off the squad, although they have not been named. The students’ academic status and enrollment were not affected when they were dismissed from the team.

Fetrow expressed skepticism about the mechanics behind the team’s agreement to kneel for the coin toss and stand for the anthem, which she had previously defended.

“What we understood to be shared agreement among players, student leaders and coaches has not been adequately supported,” she said. “As a result, each of the students dismissed from the football team for failure to comply with the team’s shared agreement established for that day has been offered reinstatement to the team.”

It was a change in tone from the president's previous statement, which cast the agreement as being “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.”

Kneeling during the national anthem has become a form of political protest over the last year, since Colin Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, started kneeling during the anthem before National Football League games in an protest against racism and police brutality against African Americans. The movement has drawn supporters and opponents, with critics saying the protest disrespects the military or the flag.

Speaking to The Philadelphia Tribune over the weekend, Durante said he was looking to transfer from Albright following his dismissal from the team. It was not immediately clear whether he was still looking to transfer or had decided to return to Albright’s team.

“I understood the situation -- I knew it was a risk,” Durante told The Reading Eagle after being dismissed from the team. “I still have respect for the coach, for the program. But, at the end of the day, I had to do what I thought was right and I have no regrets.”

Professors at the Pennsylvania institution rallied around Durante, passing a resolution this month condemning his dismissal from the team.

“The assembled faculty of Albright College do not support the dismissal of Gyree Durante from the football team and believe that his dismissal is a threat to freedom of conscience and freedom of speech,” the resolution read.

Fetrow said she has asked the athletics department to work with Albright Student Affairs to “review policies and published practices, so that they are consistent, respect Albright’s core values and support all of our students.”

“I have been moved by the energy and commitment that this issue has demonstrated,” she said. “Our continued momentum will actively move us toward the community we aspire to be.”

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