Garden City Community College has responded to the American Civil Liberties Union’s letter seeking clarification as to why former Broncbuster basketball player Rasool Samir is no longer enrolled at the college, with the college saying Samir is no longer on the basketball team because of "disrespectful" behavior toward head coach Brady Trenkle.

Prior to the Busters’ season-opening game on Nov. 1, a red-shirt basketball player, Samir shot baskets while the national anthem was being played by the college band and the rest of his teammates and coaches were in the locker room, as usual, during the anthem. After the anthem ended, a college booster, Jim Howard, confronted Samir. The two had to be separated by a GCCC police officer, and Samir was escorted from the gymnasium. Howard told The Telegram that night that he confronted Samir for "disrespecting the flag."

By Nov. 3, Samir was no longer enrolled at GCCC, with the college claiming that Samir had voluntarily left. Samir said he had been forced to leave by head coach Brady Trenkle.

The Telegram obtained the ACLU’s letter, sent to GCCC on Nov. 9 after a complaint was made to the ACLU by Samir’s father. The letter expressed concerns that Samir’s First Amendment rights had been violated.

The college disputes that assertion with a letter sent to the ACLU on Nov. 14 by GCCC attorney Randy Grisell, of Doering, Grisell & Cunningham, P.A. in Garden City.

“Let me first say that the premise of the complaint made by Samir is without merit,” the letter reads. “Samir was not ejected from the game, and he was not kicked off the basketball team for declining to participate in the national anthem.”

The letter states that Samir did not follow a team rule that players were to be in the locker room during the anthem.

The letter then says that Samir was asked to leave the gymnasium and go to his dorm room for not being in the locker room during the anthem. The letter says Samir disregarded that direction and followed the team back onto the floor of the gymnasium, where a confrontation with Trenkle ensued.

“Samir was yelling at Coach Trenkle, threatening to fight the coach, and antagonizing Coach Trenkle to try to make him get off the floor,” the letter reads.

The letter states that Trenkle told Samir to leave the floor, and Samir responded “touch me, (expletive).”

At that point, Samir was removed from the gymnasium by college athletics employees.

When reached by phone on Friday, Samir hung up when asked for comment. An ensuing text message to Samir was not returned.

The letter states, and Samir previously confirmed, that there was a meeting between him and the coaching staff on Nov. 2. But the contents of that meeting are disputed.

Samir said during the meeting that Trenkle told him to leave the school, and GCCC Athletic Director John Green told The Telegram that Samir volunteered to leave. In a later interview with KWCH-TV, Green said that Samir was dismissed from the team for a “violation of team rules.”

Grisell’s letter states that Samir was dismissed from the team, but for “his disrespectful and aggressive conduct towards Coach Trenkle,” and not for shooting during the anthem, as the ACLU had questioned. Further, the letter states, Samir was told he was not going to be dismissed from the college and could continue to be a student at GCCC.

“Samir made the decision that if he could not play basketball that there was no need for him to continue in any capacity at GCCC,” the letter states.

The college purchased Samir a plane ticket for the morning of Nov. 3, and he was back in Philadelphia that day.

Less than a week later, the ACLU sent its letter to the college, asking for any proof that the college had not violated Samir’s First Amendment rights. The ACLU received the college’s response on Wednesday, but ACLU Legal Director Lauren Bonds said that they would not be able to fully review it until after Thanksgiving.

She did say on Wednesday that the college’s response “still contained inconsistencies.”

The full letters from both the ACLU and GCCC can be found on GCTelegram.com.

Contact J. Levi Burnfin at lburnfin@gctelegram.com.