Fan booted from college booster club for defending national anthem

A 74-year-old basketball fan was booted from a community college booster club after he confronted an athlete who was shooting hoops during the national anthem.

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Jim Howard, of Garden City, Kansas, had been a member of the Garden City Community College booster club for 32 years.

His ouster is the result of an incident that occurred during the basketball team’s season-opener on Nov. 1.

While the rest of the team was inside the locker room, a player - Rasool Samir - came onto the court and began shooting hoops during the national anthem.

PODCAST: Listen to Mr. Howard explain what happened when he confronted a basketball player who disrespected the national anthem.

Mr. Howard was furious over the blatant display of disrespect and came out of the stands at the conclusion of the anthem and had words with the athlete.

“I told him if you don’t respect the flag, get out of this gym. Get off the floor and get out of the gym and he proceeded to tell me he didn’t have to,” Mr. Howard told the Todd Starnes Show. “At least respect the people that paid for your scholarship to get you on this campus – like myself and everyone else in that gym.”

A campus police officer separated the pair – ordering Mr. Howard back to his seat and Mr. Samir off the court.

The Garden City Telegram obtained a copy of a letter written by the college’s attorney – noting “a decision may subsequently be made by the appropriate prosecutor whether battery, assault or disorderly conduct charges should be filed” against Mr. Howard.

He says there was no physical contact – just a close-contact, heated conversation.

It’s ironic that a fan who was defending the national anthem could face disorderly conduct charges while the player who disrupted the national anthem does not.

As for 19-year-old Mr. Samir – he’s no longer on the basketball team – and it’s not quite clear whether he was kicked off the team or if he resigned.

Neither the school, its athletic department nor the booster club returned my messages seeking comment.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas has already taken sides – sending a letter to the community college demanding to know why Mr. Samir is no longer on the team.

“Samir was engaged in protected First Amendment activity when he declined to observe the national anthem,” the ACLU wrote in a letter to the school. “Moreover, Samir’s objection was motivated by his religious beliefs and thus, was protected on free speech exercise grounds.’

If that’s the case, why didn’t Mr. Samir simply stay inside the locker room until after the national anthem had concluded? Why didn’t he follow the coach’s directive to stay inside the locker room?

“This was definitely an ‘in your face’ move. He knew exactly what he was doing because he was waiting for it to happen,’ Mr. Howard told me.

As for now, Mr. Howard has not faced any criminal charges for defending the national anthem. However, should he be arrested, I told him I would be honored to post his bail.

Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary. His latest book is “The Deplorables’ Guide to Making America Great Again.” Follow him on Twitter @ToddStarnes and find him on Facebook.