Two former student-athletes at Lansing Catholic High School talked with WKAR about their racial encounters months before they decided to kneel during the national anthem during this year's football season. They also talked about why they left the school.
With permission from their parents, Michael Lynn III and Matthew Abdullah talked with WKAR Current Sports host Al Martin last week.
Lynn, who is both black and Latino says he went thru racial taunting at Lansing Catholic starting with cyber-bullying by fellow teammates in the fall of 2016.
“So I’m coming back from games and I’m putting my heart out on the field and in the group chat, I’m seeing 'build the wall, Make America Great Again'," said Lynn. "I’m half-Mexican and half-black and they know I’m in the group chat. And I ended up texting them that the stuff’s not funny.. cut it out.. this isn’t the place for that."
Lynn said racial remarks and experiences continued well after the football season.
“I didn’t feel good as a student there," said Lynn. "I didn’t feel good walking the halls. Like I said I’d sit and be anxious. I’d sit in the parking lot and not know if I wanted to walk into the school.”
Lynn said it was his idea to kneel during the playing of the national anthem during the 2017 football season. He said it was not a knee jerk reaction to seeing NFL players do the same thing. He explained his reasoning to the entire team in early October but Lynn said his coach was not supportive.
“When I say I talked to 30 straight minutes, I told them the things I’ve gone through and why I felt like I needed to do this," said Lynn. "And he comes back and tells me I just hope we’re ready for Friday. And kinda hit me either you don’t understand or you don’t want to understand what I’m telling you right now."
Fellow player, Matthew Abdullah, who is also African-American, joined Lynn in kneeling.
“There were some teammates that were like 'yeah we’ll support you but we just won’t kneel'," said Abdullah. "And at the end of the meeting they just said, some will kneel, some will stand but we’ll all be united.”
Starting with their October 6 game, Lynn, Abdullah and two other black football players kneeled during the national anthem. And for the rest of the season. Coaches punished them by not letting them start the game.
Away from the field, Abdullah and another student created a cultural diversity club for Lansing Catholic High School students.
“The club was set to just make it so people had a safe place to go and talk about what’s going on in their life or school with racial issues or even cultural issues," said Abdullah. "The first two meetings were good. That really brightened my day.”
But the club’s experience was not enough for the two student athletes to feel like Lansing Catholic High School was home.
Abdullah transferred to Holt High School.
Lynn will finish his senior year at Lansing Sexton.
We reached out to the Lansing Catholic High School principal Doug Moore for comment on this story. He said the school will not be making any formal statements at this time.