Fernando Bryant, a cornerback who played 10 NFL seasons, was fired from a job as head coach of a Georgia high school football team less than three weeks after signing his contract.
The apparent reason? A three-year old photo on his wife’s Instagram account.
A first-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1999, Bryant signed a contract to be the head coach of Strong Rock Christian School, but not long after the school asked him to resign, allegedly after parents raised issues about his past on social media.
Talking to WXIA, Bryant said that when he refused to resign, he was fired.
Bryant’s termination letter specifically mentions social media as the reason he was let go, but he said he was never told which specific post or posts led to the school’s decision.
“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.
A source within the football program provided WXIA with the photo that apparently caused the controversy, a three-year old photo on Amber Bryant’s Instagram account of the couple at a party, with Fernando holding a bottle of liquor. The football team source said program officials knew of the photo before hiring Fernando Bryant, but a parent raised concerns.
Bryant said the photo with the bottle was taken at an event for the event’s sponsors.
The school requires employees to be Born-Again Christians, but according to Bryant, during the two-month interview process he was never told that employees cannot drink, nor was there a mention of social-media guidelines.
Along with speaking to Bryant extensively and checking into his social media, Bryant said the school also spoke to Amber and looked at her social media accounts.
“It is a little disheartening. I went through a long process,” said Bryant, who may pursue legal action against the school. “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.
“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. I am a Christian, that’s the one thing that gives Christianity a bad name, when we start passing judgment on each other.”
Bryant, who has worked as a defensive backs coach at Limestone College, said he turned down two college jobs and a high school job to take the position at Strong Rock Christian School.
WXIA reached out to school officials several times, but could not get comment on Bryant’s firing.
The 39-year old played for five seasons with the Jaguars, four with the Detroit Lions and spent his final season, in 2008, with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers won the Super Bowl that year.
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