By: Will Burchfield
Former Lions cornerback Fernando Bryant was fired from his position of head football coach at a Georgia high school ostensibly due to a three-year-old Instagram post in which he and his wife were shown holding a bottle of alcohol, according to 11Alive.com.
The photo, originally posted on Bryant’s wife’s private Instagram account, was apparently dug up by parents of some of the players on Bryant’s team and shown to the administrative board at Strong Rock Christian School, where Bryant was the head football coach and a P.E. teacher.
“I was led to believe it was my wife’s [post],” Bryant told 11Alive. “They never showed it to me or never said anything other than a parent brought it to their attention.”
The administration apparently asked for Bryant’s resignation shortly thereafter, on Feb. 19. When he declined, he was fired.
According to 11Alive, “Bryant said that the school employees must be Born-Again Christians, but they never explicitly stated employees could not drink. They also never made any sort of social media guidelines known to him.”
His termination letter, which Bryant provided to 11Alive, is below.
“This letter will confirm that Strong Rock Christian School has made a decision not to move forward with your employment in the position of head coach of the football team and physical education teacher. As we discussed, after we made the offer to you, 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 Christian values. We’re sorry that our relationship had to end before it started. We wish you the best,” the letter stated.
Bryant, who played for the Lions from 2004 to 2007 during his ten-year NFL career, was fired just 20 days into his job with Strong Rock. He told 11Alive that the school conducted extensive background checks on him during a two-month-long interview process, searching his wife’s social media history and his own.
A source within the Strong Rock football program told 11Alive that the school had seen the Instagram photo in question before Bryant was hired.
“I don’t know if they went back three years,” Bryant said. “I know they went through her social media and everything. They actually called her in and spoke with her during the interview process, so I don’t really know, to be honest.”
The photo, which Bryant said was taken for sponsors at a 2014 event for an internet magazine, depicts Bryant and wife holding a bottle of alcohol, but not drinking it. It was shared by 11Alive, with Bryant’s approval.
In terms of seeking recompense, Bryant told 11Alive he may file a lawsuit against the school but is still exploring his options.
“It is a little disheartening. I went through a long process,” he said. “I don’t understand it from the standpoint of the day they hired me to the day they said they couldn’t have me as their head coach. Nothing had changed. Nothing changed from the standpoint of anything they knew about me.”
He questioned the school’s values given the apparent influence of one parent or one group of parents.
“If one parent or one part of a school can control it that much as far as Christianity, it makes you wonder what times we’re in,” he said. “I am a Christian, that’s the one thing that gives Christianity a bad name, when we start passing judgment on each other.”