Why coach says 2 high school football players are off team after anthem protest

By Brittany Taylor - Digital News Editor, Ryan Korsgard - Reporter

CROSBY, Texas - A Crosby coach explains his reasoning for kicking two football players of a private high school off the team after one knelt and another raised his fist during the national anthem.

Larry McCullough, 18, and Cedric Ingram Lewis, 16, are at the center of a debate after being kicked off the Victory and Worship Academy football team.

The head coach at the academy, Ronnie Mitchem, said his players were not allowed to protest during the anthem because he felt was disrespectful of veterans and others.

He made the two players strip down, remove their uniforms on the field and dismissed them from the team. 

Mitchem, a former Marine, said he doesn't oppose protesting, but not during the national anthem.

"I have nothing against the young men, I love them both," Mitchem said.

He said he and the football players, who are all home schoolers, at Victory and Praise Worship Center discussed long before the game, the rule against protesting by kneeling.

However, he said Larry McCullough took a knee during the National Anthem Friday and paid the price.

"I shook his hand. I said, 'Larry, I appreciate your time as a Shark.' He's even said that on TV. But I said, "your time as a shark is done,'" Mitchem said. 

He said CJ Lewis quit the team in solidarity with his cousin, McCullough.

"CJ who said he was kicked off of the team too ... actually was not kicked off of the team. Because he didn't kneel," Mitchem told KPRC 2.

Mitchem said he told the two star players to leave their uniforms behind on the field.  He said the two wore clothes under their uniforms and chose to take off their uniforms on the field. 

"I said look guys, there's a restroom right there. And I pointed toward the restroom and I said you can go there and change but I want you to leave all of my equipment right here," Mitchem said.

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