Former Ephrata QB Gyree Durante takes a stand by taking a knee

By on October 18, 2017

Former Ephrata High School QB Gyree Durante

The moment Gyree Durante’s knee hit the ground when the National Anthem began to play before a football game against Delaware Valley on October 7, he knew his fate was sealed.

But for Durante, who plays backup quarterback for Albright College, the power of his message outweighed the importance of the game.

“I knew the risks and consequences that might occur if I took a knee, however if you want to fight for something, you got to fight for it no matter the risks,” Durante explained during an interview with The Ephrata Review. “You take it head on and worry about that stuff later. At some point you have to make a stand and fight.”

Durante spent eight years in Ephrata before moving to Florida. He attended Fulton Elementary, Ephrata Intermediate/Middle School and Ephrata High School for two years, where he played football. Durante is currently a sophomore at Albright College majoring in business with a 3.2 GPA, but plans to transfer to a school closer to his family in Florida.

Durante decided to kneel the week before at a game and was warned he would face serious consequences if he did it again. A 24-player leadership council made up of team players decided kneeling would result in termination and instead the team could kneel during the coin toss.

What happened in between those games was a slew of comments made by President Donald Trump that resonated with Durante.

“President Trump’s comments about the NFL made me sort of angry,” Durante explained. “This is the man that is supposed to be the protector of all our constitutional rights, and to me it just felt like a slap in the face with what he said regarding firing players for what they believe in and making their stance.”

Since Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the National Anthem last season to other NFL players following suit this season, the argument of whether to kneel or stand during the National Anthem is dominating the headlines and has turned social media into a war zone.

“I don’t think it’s fair at all to dismiss a player for taking a knee. That is their constitutional right and no one can take that away as a citizen and human being,” said Durante. “Our constitution clearly states we are allowed freedom of speech, religion and the right to organize peaceful protest. If you haven’t broken any laws, why kick them off for something that isn’t wrong?”

For Durante, who has experienced racial discrimination on and off the field, it was a peaceful and powerful way to protest how he feels.
“It is hard to sit there sometimes and be called racial slurs or be discriminated against,” admitted Durante. “But if I act with violence, that would make me equal with the person who said those things. It makes you very tough and nothing really seems to bother you after you block it all out. But at times it does make me angry, I get upset. My emotions take over sometimes, but at the end of the day, I use it as motivation in my life.”

Durante also said that feedback from people has been mostly positive, including a message from Oakland Athletics catcher, Bruce Maxwell.
“Seeing all these people support me was a shock,” he admitted. “But I thank all those out there who show support.”

As far as the negative comments, Durante respects everyone’s opinions.

“I hope they can one day see my point of view but I still wish them the best.”

Durante decided to also be proactive with his stance. Next week, he is attending a Black Caucus session at the State Capitol building in Harrisburg.

“In the future, I plan to be a part of protests if I can,” he added. “I plan to try and raise money and give back to the community. My overall plan is just to help people if they need help. But I can also speak out on the racism and social issues if need be.”

Two other teammates were also removed from the team after not properly kneeling during a coin toss. In a recent turn of events, Albright’s president, Jacquelyn Fetrow, reviewed the school’s policy and all three players, including Durante, were invited back onto the team.

“When I saw the President’s email, I felt like I had accomplished something,” said Durante. “The school changed their policies and regulations regarding the situation. It meant that people were having the discussion and talking about it and right now that’s all I can ask for.”

President Fetrow’s letter, which was sent to faculty and students on Monday, stated “The symbols on Albright’s shield represent our focus on the combined pursuit of truth and justice. Thus, we honor, nurture, and celebrate human diversity in all its forms and call into question whatever negates or endangers the dignity and worth of the human spirit. I have been moved by the energy and commitment that this issue has demonstrated. Our continued momentum will actively move us toward the community we aspire to be.”

Though Durante and his two teammates were invited to rejoin the team, Durante said he does not plan on returning this season.

“This is a personal decision and one that I think is best for me at this time,” he explained. “I do not want to distract the team at this very crucial point of their season and I wish them all the best. I will be cheering from the sidelines for sure though.”

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