The dust-up before a recent Garden City Community College men’s basketball game delivered an educational opportunity.

Unfortunately, it was missed.

Broncbuster student-athlete Rasool Samir was alone on the court shooting baskets during the national anthem, which incensed a fan who charged the court and went after Samir.

Security intervened and the angry fan — GCCC booster Jim Howard — returned to his seat for the game.

Samir — who’s black and Muslim — later left the college, claiming he was forced out. GCCC says otherwise.

Either way, the fracas drove home the fury of many Americans over ongoing protests by NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to draw attention to race relations.

Anyone who believes such behavior disrespects the flag and military veterans is entitled to their opinion.

They should know others disagree, to include armed forces personnel and veterans who consider the NFL protests anything but unpatriotic. They support the right to peacefully take a stand, even if it’s on one knee.

U.S. military troops pledge to defend the U.S. Constitution, which strongly protects liberties such as free speech. The true test of our precious freedom of speech is in the ability to tolerate disturbing words and ideas.

It’s not always easy.

Those who disagree with athletes’ protests have every right to boo or otherwise denounce those demonstrations.

Going after someone in an aggressive, threatening manner — as happened at GCCC — is unacceptable.

Besides, Samir wasn’t protesting. He apologized and explained he’s never stood for the national anthem in part because of his religion.

The situation presented a teachable moment for GCCC coaches and staff, which apparently didn’t happen.

Samir did, however, learn actions have consequences — as should the aggressor in the pre-game incident.

Many Americans have much to learn about our rights. Too many haven’t taken even a basic civics course.

Surveys show students at every level — college included — don’t grasp the First Amendment and its five freedoms, two of which are speech and religion.

During a time of so much complicated dialogue and conflict, GCCC and other schools must do more to help citizens understand the First Amendment’s undeniably vital role in our free society.