“I think that this is the most ridiculous thing that has ever happened to us” - Amber Bryant
Fernando Bryant was getting ready for his first season as head coach of Strong Rock Christian’s football team when he was called into an administrative office.
Bryant, a first-round pick in the 1999 NFL Draft who played 10 season professionally, had been hired at the private school in Locust Grove, Ga. to much fanfare 20 days before.
“I think Fernando will be a great addition to the athletic staff at Strong Rock,” Athletic Director Phil Roberts said at the time, according to the Henry Herald. “His playing experience speaks for itself, but as we went through the interview process, his relationships with Christ, student-athletes, and co-workers are what convinced us that he could be successful here. I’m excited to develop the next phase of strengthening our football program with a leader like Fernando Bryant.”
Bryant said the hiring process was extensive. He said he answered unending questions in several meetings with a hiring committee.
“I didn’t sugar coat anything,” Bryant said.
The committee even interviewed his wife, Amber, who had been a television personality on the Bravo reality show Mother Funders.
“They asked about my social media presence,” Amber Bryant said. “They asked about the show that we were on on Bravo, and we went into detail about these things because they said we have parents that may ask questions and we want to know how you’d respond.”
Amber Bryant said the couple felt good after that interview.
“We really thought after that interview that I had been a part of, that we had laid everything out on the table, we were very upfront and honest with them,” Amber Bryant said.
But less than three weeks later, as he was ordering uniforms for his players, Bryant was called into another meeting. This time with administrators.
According to Bryant, officials at the private Christian school asked him to resign after some parents had raised concerns about his past on social media. When he refused, he was fired.
In a letter sent to the former NFL player and obtained by 11Alive, social media was specifically cited as the cause of his termination.
"Some within our parent community raised concerns regarding your family's public presence on social media and the internet and questioned whether the postings and information were consistent with our school's Christian ethics and character,” the letter stated.
Bryant said the school didn't tell him what the post in question was, and he said it couldn't have been anything he did after he was hired. He speculates that it might have been a picture from three years ago that showed Bryant holding a bottle of alcohol.
“We’re kind of shot in the foot for a post that has a closed bottle of alcohol that was for promotion,” Amber Bryant said. “It makes no sense to me.”
“You’re judging me based off of who I was and who doesn’t have a past,” Fernando Bryant said. “That’s what’s a little scary to me. It’s like how far, how far do you have to go back to say I’m a Christian now. How far do you have to go back into someone’s past to say it’s OK for you to testify about your Christianity and who you are and be a role model to someone?”
The school's application has a personal expectation clause that states the applicant "will refrain from the use of alcoholic beverages and tobacco in public."
The Bryants said what hurt the most about his firing was the fact that he had already met with parents and students.
“We’ve gone to meet and greets,” Amber Bryant said. “How do you now go to them and say 'Unfortunately, daddy got fired.’ How do you tell that to a 6-year-old?”
Strong Rock Christian has not responded to numerous attempts from 11Alive to get a comment on the firing.
UP NEXT: 11Alive is looking into concerns from several parents who claim that another member of the coaching staff at Strong Rock Christian posted derogatory comments on social media in November. That staff is reportedly still with the school. More on this angle of the story as it develops.
Click to watch a Facebook live with 11Alive's Faith Abubey and Aleq McQuade, who answered your questions about the story.