The day after a pre-game confrontation between a Garden City Community College booster and a basketball player who was shooting during the national anthem, the player, Rasool Samir, has issued an apology.
“I didn’t mean any disrespect at all to the fans or the flag at last night’s game,” he told The Telegram on Twitter. “I am truly sorry to anyone that felt disrespected and I am also sorry to the school. I apologize for what happened.”
Samir, who is red-shirting this season and was not on the active roster, remained on the floor at the Conestoga Arena on Wednesday in the Busters’ season opener after his teammates and coaches went back to the locker room, as usual with the team’s pre-game agenda.
When the national anthem began to play, Samir was under the east basket, and was shooting. Immediately after the anthem, Jim Howard, a member of the Broncbuster Athletic Association, came out of the stands and confronted Samir, attempting to grab Samir by the arm several times.
The pair were separated by a campus police officer, and Samir was escorted out of the gym. He returned for just a few minutes with the team, before leaving the arena prior to the start of the game.
Howard returned to his seat, receiving applause from several in attendance, and remained there for the game.
Thursday evening, GCCC Athletic Director John Green gave the college's first and only statement after the Wednesday confrontation. GCCC head coach Brady Trenkle and assistant athletic director Kevin Schlegel each declined comment Wednesday after the game, and pointed all questions to Green; although, he was not present at the game, due to attending a family emergency in Texas.
“We’re going to continue to be proactive at looking at all aspects of what took place," Green said on Thursday.
The college had not decided as of Thursday whether Samir would face discipline from the college, but Green and other college officials are set to meet Friday morning to discuss the college's response.
Samir said he was not directly protesting anything, but he has never stood for the anthem, due to what he said were religious reasons. Samir, who was born and raised in Philadelphia, is Muslim, and he said his faith is part of the reason he does not stand for the anthem.
“Even in high school, I never stood for the anthem. People worship the flag, and I don’t do that,” he said.
He also said he did not expect anybody to confront him after the anthem.
“When I was in high school, no one said anything to me,” he said. “I was just shooting (the ball). I didn’t think I was being disrespectful. I wasn’t doing it just to make anybody mad.”
Samir said Howard should have handled the situation differently.
“He could have just told me, ‘Hey, excuse me sir … next time the anthem comes on, go outside or whatever.’ I would have been cool with that. I respect people’s beliefs,” Samir said.
Samir was not available for comment Wednesday, but Howard told The Telegram after the game he wanted Samir off the floor immediately after the anthem.
“I wanted him off the court, and I wanted him out of this gym,” he said. “If you’re going to disrespect the flag, get out of here.”