LOCUST GROVE, Ga. – The silence has been deafening.
For three days, leaders at Strong Rock Christian school have not spoken out about the firing of a former NFL player less than three weeks after he was fired to coach their football team.
But on social media, it’s been anything but quiet.
Thousands of people have sounded off on 11Alive’s Facebook page and other social outlets about the treatment of Fernando Bryant.
Bryant, who played 10 season in the NFL, said he was asked to resign 20 days after he was hired. He refused and was fired. His termination letter explicitly states social media as the cause. While the school did not provide a specific post, there’s been speculation that a parent raised concerns over a three-year-old post on Bryant’s wife’s Instagram account that showed the couple holding a bottle of alcohol.
And while school officials have not returned 11Alive’s requests for comment, parents are now beginning to demand answers for themselves.
“At some point, you just can't send us a five sentence email and expect us to take that like this man just walked out on these kids,” said Marlon Field. “It's not right. At some point, somebody has got to say something.”
For Field, the firing was personal. For one, he was also on the coaching staff at Strong Rock Christian School this past season. And, his son is currently a student there. Plus, he also helped bring Bryant to the school.
“I'm the one who actually brought it to his attention that 'Hey, there's a job opening here.' I've known the guy since high school,” Field said.
Field is one of about two dozen parents now planning to go to the school on Monday to find out exactly why Bryant was let go.
“They loved him so in 20 days what changed,” Field said. “What I see happening is you have a bunch of parents who don't want a black man telling their kids how to be successful. That's truly my opinion.”
Field's sentiments are also echoing in parts of the small Henry County community.
Alvin Mitchell is another parent at the school.
“Honestly, I think it's more about race than social media,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said back in November he took a screen grab of a post by another coaching staff member at the school. That staffer is white. The post contained derogatory statements about President Obama's healthcare plan and Hillary Clinton.
“What standards are you using to fire me from social media because I know for a fact employees at that school have posts up that offend me,” Bryant said.
The post no longer exists, and while the coach is still listed as a staff member, he told 11Alive that he is no longer allowed to coach at the school.
“I think [Bryant] got a bad deal – a raw deal --in this situation,” Field said. “I just hope the school comes out and explain to us, why you did this man like this, and how can we trust you moving forward.”
The school is on winter break this week, and no administrators have responded to 11Alive requests for comment.
INTERVIEW WITH FERNANDO AND AMBER BRYANT