Jim Howard, of Garden City, Kansas is a red-blooded, American patriot and a faithful supporter of the athletic program at the local community college.
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For 32 years he’s volunteered with the booster club – keeping scorebooks, holding fundraisers, running the chain gang for football – and even providing a place for players to have a Thanksgiving meal.
He was in the stands on Nov. 1 for the season-opener of the Garden City Broncbusters basketball team. And when the announcer asked everyone to stand for the national anthem, he dutifully joined the crowd and stood at attention.
That’s when he noticed a lone player seated on a bench at courtside – Rasool Samir, a 19-year-old Muslim red-shirt.
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It was unusual because there’s a team rule that the entire basketball team was supposed to stay inside the locker room until after the national anthem had concluded.
But as the crowd began singing about the bombs bursting in air and the rocket’s red glare, the Muslim basketball player grabbed a ball, walked onto the court and began shooting baskets.
“It was an ‘in your face slam,’” he said.
Mr. Howard decided enough was enough. He was tired of people disrespecting the national anthem. So at the conclusion of the song he walked onto the court and confronted Samir.
“I walked onto the floor and I told the guy he should respect the flag and if he’s not going to respect the flag, he should get off the court and get out of the gym,” Mr. Howard told the Todd Starnes Show.
“You should respect the flag. If you don’t respect the flag, just stay seated. Don’t make a big scene,” he said. “At least respect the people that paid for your scholarship to get you on this campus – like myself and everyone else in that gym.”
The Garden City Telegram reported that a police officer broke up the confrontation – telling Mr. Howard to return to his seat and escorting the player off the court.
When that happened, a number of people in the stands gave Mr. Howard a standing ovation and some fans even came over to shake the man’s hand.
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It seems, they too – had had enough.
“Everyone around town was patting me on my back and saying thank you,” he said.
The following day Samir was dismissed from the team.
However, there are two versions as to what happened. The local newspaper says it was Samir’s decision to leave. But the American Civil Liberties Union claims the young man was kicked off the team.
The Kansas chapter of the ACLU fired off a letter to the community college demanding answers and claiming that Samir’s constitutional rights were violated.
“He refrained from participating in the national anthem because he is a Muslim and his faith prohibits acts of reverence to anything but God,” the ACLU wrote in a letter to the school.
Well, if that’s the case, why didn’t Samir stay inside the locker room with the rest of the team during the national anthem?
“Samir was engaged in protected First Amendment activity when he declined to observe the national anthem,” the ACLU wrote. “Moreover, Samir’s objection was motivated by his religious beliefs and thus, was protected on free speech exercise grounds.”
If, in fact, Samir’s Muslim faith prohibits him from honoring America and our flag, perhaps he might feel more comfortable playing basketball somewhere else? I hear the Iran and Saudi Arabia are quite lovely this time of year.
As for Mr. Howard, I’m not surprised to hear that many folks around town are giving him a pat on the back and shaking his hand. He did what every patriotic sports fan in the country has wanted to do.