As the National Anthem began to play at Wednesday night's season opener for the Garden City Community College Broncbusters, a GCCC basketball player appeared under the east basket and started shooting the ball.
The rest of the Busters were in the locker room with head coach Brady Trenkle, as usual, while the anthem played.
The lone player — later identified to be Rasool Samir, who is injured and red-shirting this season — stayed under the basket shooting for the duration of the anthem, while most of those in attendance for the game at Conestoga Arena stood, staring at the flag posted on the east wall. When the anthem ended, a fan, Jim Howard, came out of the stands to confront Samir.
The two exchanged heated words, and a campus police officer had to separate the pair, with Howard reaching to grab Samir several times. Samir was escorted off the court and Howard went back to his seat to applause from several in the stands.
GCCC officials, head coach Brady Trenkle and assistant athletic director Kevin Schlegel, declined to comment about the pre-game confrontation. Athletic Director John Green was not at the game due to a family emergency. And Samir was unavailable for comment after the game, so it was unclear why Samir was on the court, and not in the locker room with the rest of the team.
However, Howard discussed his involvement in the incident with The Telegram.
“I’ve had enough of disrespecting our flag,” Howard said. “I’ve been raising money for 32 years for this college, trying to help pay for scholarships for these kids. If they’re not going to respect our flag, then they need to get off of our campus and out of Garden City.”
Howard said he’s been a member of the Broncbusters Athletic Association — a fundraising group — for “14 or 15 years.”
Howard explained why he decided to confront Samir on the court.
“I wanted him off the court, and I wanted him out of this gym,” he said. “If you’re going to disrespect the flag, get out of here.”
Howard said he wants Samir kicked off the team.
“If this kid stays, I hope nobody ever donates another dime to this college…” Howard said.
The issue has become a point of contention at public schools across the country, with the American Civil Liberties Union threatening to sue school districts that try to mandate players and students to stand for the anthem.
The ACLU cites a 1943 Supreme Court decision that held that it is unconstitutional to force students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, claiming that the decision extends to the national anthem, as well.