Garden City Community College in western Kansas is enduring an unexpected moment in the basketball sun due to the hasty departure from school of a red-shirted basketball player named Rasool Samir.
Samir, a 19-year-old from Philadelphia, decided he would shoot baskets during the playing of the national anthem prior to a November 1 basketball game. On November 2, the Garden City Telegram’s J. Levi Burnfin reported that team booster Jim Howard took unkindly to Samir’s apparent show of disrespect and confronted him on the court. A campus police officer separated the two and escorted Samir off the court. Howard returned to his seat “to applause from several in the stands.”
“I’ve had enough of disrespecting our flag,” Howard told the Telegram. “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.”
The Telegram added detail on November 4. GCCC Athletic Director John Green told the Telegram that Samir met with coach Brady Trenkle late on November 2 to discuss the incident. According to Green, Samir asked to be released from his scholarship, and Trenkle obliged him. On November 3, Samir flew out of Garden City and headed back to Philadelphia.
The Telegram contacted Samir in Philadelphia on the 3rd. “I did not leave on my own,” he said, before hanging up abruptly. In a text, Samir said, “They told me I had to leave,” and he cited “Coach Trenkle” specifically. Athletic Director Green stood by his coach and seen texts from Samir expressing his desire to leave the college.
Deep in the November 4 article, Burnfin mentions that Samir identifies as a Muslim. “Citing his faith,” writes Burnfin, “he said standing for the anthem has never been something he’s done, and he did not expect a negative reaction.”
By November 16, Samir had lawyered up and was getting headlines from coast to coast. If the headline of the first Telegram articles led with the word “Player,” virtually every November 16 headline–CBS, Washington Post, New York Post, Kansas City Star–led with the word “Muslim.” The New York Daily News article opens thusly, “A Muslim student athlete who refused to observe the national anthem for religious reasons . . . ” This kind of lead was the norm.
The reader learns that the “ACLU contends Samir did not participate in the anthem because he believes his Muslim faith prohibits acts of reverence to anything but God.” This is the same ACLU that took up the case against Christian cake maker Jack Phillips for Phillips’s refusal to make a “wedding” cake that subverted the teachings of his 2,000-year-old religion.
Although there is no doubting the sincerity of Phillips’s faith, there is considerable reason to question Samir’s. Six years worth of posts to his Facebook page suggests not a hint of anything Islam.