Division III Albright College cuts player for kneeling during anthem

A Division III football player has been dismissed from his team for kneeling during the national anthem before a game last weekend.

Gyree Durante, a backup quarterback at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, was kicked off the team after he knelt by himself during the national anthem before last Saturday's 41-6 loss to Delaware Valley University.

An Albright College spokeswoman said in a statement that the team's leadership council, which consists of 24 players, voted to kneel during the coin toss and stand during the national anthem. Durante then decided to kneel during the national anthem on his own.

"The football team made a team-wide decision to both kneel during the coin toss and stand during the national anthem," the spokeswoman wrote in a statement. "This action, which was supported by the coaching staff, was created as an expression of team unity and out of the mutual respect team members have for one another and the value they place on their differences. It was established as a way to find common ground in a world with many differing views."

Durante, a freshman from Norristown, Pennsylvania, couldn't immediately be reached for comment. He had appeared in two games this season, completing 3 of 8 passes for 35 yards with one touchdown. His name had been removed from the team's roster on the college's website on Wednesday morning.

"At some point in life, there's going to be a time when you've got to take a stand," Durante told NBC 10 in Philadelphia. "For me, it just happened to be on Saturday afternoon.

"I was just taught you fight for what you believe in, and you don't bow to anyone. I believe heavily in this, so I decided to fight for it."

"He's doing well, considering," Durante's mother told ESPN. "He's avery strong kid, much stronger than me or my husband would've expected. He went to class this morning, so he's in good spirits. He's officially a grown man. He made this decision completely on his own."

"I do think they've created a hostile environment there," Durante's father Ronnell said. "They've already pitted players against him, against players who might feel for him. You feel it as soon as you cross campus. You can. It's a small campus, you can feel it in the air. Nobody knows what to say or do. I'm just hoping nobody overreacts."

Albright College is a private liberal arts school with an enrollment of about 1,700 students. Its athletics teams compete in the Division III Eastern College Athletic Conference.

The spokeswoman said in the statement that the Albright College players were told in advance that there would be consequences if they knelt during the national anthem.

"The team agreed to uphold the council decision, with the understanding that there may be consequences for those who choose not to support the team," the spokeswoman wrote. "One football player, unbeknownst to the coach and the team, chose not to support the decision of the leadership council and team. He has been dismissed from the team but remains a valued member of the Albright College student body."

A statement from the Albright College football team was also read before last weekend's Homecoming game against Delaware Valley University:

"Inside these white stripes is a perfect world. Inside this space, the game does not care about the color of our skin. It does not care how thick or thin our wallet is, what kind of car we drive or by what name we call God. It only measures us by how hard we work, how well we work together and how quickly we learn from and teach through its lessons. On this field, nothing is given but everything is earned. It is truly a perfect world.

"We believe that our role is to expand the dimensions of this field and take those lessons and teachings with us into our classrooms and our dormitories; into this local neighborhood and back home with us to our families, our churches, our communities and into our society as a whole.

"We storm this field behind the American Flag as a symbol of our commitment, our unity and the value we place on our freedoms. We both kneel and stand tall out of the mutual respect we have for each other and the value we place on our differences; because we believe that teamwork is not about tolerating our differences, but about valuing them.

"We ask all of you to help us expand the dimensions of this field to grow this perfect world outside these stripes."

Josh Powell, a freshman defensive end from Tampa, told NBC 10 that Durante broke his teammates' trust by taking a knee during the national anthem.

"We trusted him throughout the week, after time and time again he told us he would stand," Powell said, according to NBC 10. "When you can't have a player on a team that you can trust, he's got to go."

Professional and college football players and athletes in other sports have been kneeling or protesting during the anthem. The movement was started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick last season over his view of police mistreatment of people of color.