College Suspends Players, Forfeits Game Over Kneeling

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An NAIA college in Virginia forfeited a men’s basketball game after suspending several players for kneeling during the national anthem prior to recent games.

According to WVVA, Bluefield College forfeited Thursday’s game at Reinhardt after weeks of back and forth between the players and school officials. President Dr. David Olive released a statement, which WVVA posted in full, that said the players were told there would be consequences if they chose to kneel during the national anthem.

Olive’s statement said that a television station showed Bluefield players kneeling prior to a Jan. 30 game against Bryan College. After the team revealed they had also kneeled prior to their Jan. 23 and Jan. 26 games, Olive said he “shared with Coach (Richard) Morgan that kneeling during the anthem would not be allowed going forward, and I instructed him to share that with his team. I then instructed VP (Tonia) Walker to communicate this prohibition to all the head coaches so that similar incidents would not occur with other teams.

“The basis for my decision stemmed from my own awareness of how kneeling is perceived by some in our country, and I did not think a number of our alumni, friends, and donors of the College would view the act of kneeling during the anthem in a positive way. As I conveyed this to VP Walker and Coach Morgan, I denoted that anytime a student athlete puts on a jersey that says ‘Bluefield College’ on it, the message is no longer just the student athlete’s message but that it becomes the message of Bluefield College. Pointing to the already fractured and divided nature of our country, I did not want Bluefield College contributing to the further divide; rather, I wanted the College to bring people together in a united effort to address issues of racial injustice.”

The players moved forward with their social protest, kneeling during a Feb. 2 game before staying in the locker room during the anthem on Feb. 4. Olive met with the team Feb. 5, saying he told them “their intended message in bringing awareness of racial injustices was being diluted or completely lost because some saw their act of kneeling as being disrespectful to the flag, our country, and to our veterans. In my opinion, their message was not being hard.”

The players told Olive that their intent wasn’t to disrespect the flag, and shared their personal experiences with racial injustices. Olive said they discussed alternative options to kneeling during the anthem, and the team stayed in the locker room during a Feb. 6 game before kneeling prior to the Feb. 9 home game against Tennessee Wesleyan.

The school officials decided to punish the players by forfeiting the Reinhardt game. The Rams are scheduled to host Milligan on Monday.

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