Basketball team forfeits game due to multiple player suspensions for kneeling during National Anthem from --Law Enforcement Today » News Category Feed by Jenna Curren Fri Mar 05 2021 00:51:46 BLUEFIELD, VA– Back in the middle of February, a NAIA school in Virginia forfeited its men’s basketball game after suspending players for kneeling during the national anthem for several games in January and February. According to reports, in a statement after the forfeit, Bluefield College president David Olive said that after players had knelt before multiple games in January and February, even after he told them to stop, he decided to suspend all athletes involved. The suspensions resulted in a forfeit of the NAIA Appalachian Athletic Conference game against Reinhardt. Olive said in his statement: “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.” Reportedly, Olive said became aware on February 1st that players had knelt during a January 30th home game against Bryan College as well as during away games on January 23rd and January 26th. After he became aware of this, he told head coach Richard Morgan that kneeling during the national anthem “would not be allowed going forward.” Olive said he later learned that players continued to kneel at a February 2nd game and the team was kept in the locker room during the national anthem at an away game on February 4th. Olive then said he reached out on February 5th regarding the kneeling and suggested alternative forms of protest such as staying in the locker room. After the team knelt during a home game on February 9th, Olive said: “There would be consequences for the actions of the players for violating the College policy.” According to Bluefield football player Jewels Gray, who is close with many members of the basketball team, this stands in direct contrast with what the basketball team was told before the season began. Gray discussed the suspensions with the players and said that the players said they were told they were not allowed to released a statement of their own or speak to the media. Gray said: “Why would our school contradict what they said? We had meetings before the season with the athletic director and the president and they stated that we can kneel and they’d support and be behind us, 100 percent.” A Bluefield College spokesman denied Gray’s statement and said neither Olive nor Tonia Walker ever offered approval for student-athletes to kneel during the anthem. Reportedly, Olive reached out to Morgan and the team to discuss the protests, saying that he understood their message and supported calls for racial justice, but that he did not condone doing so during the national anthem. In a statement, he said: “I further told them that 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 heard.” Olive said players told him they had no intention of being disrespectful and shared personal stories of racism they had faced. In response, Olive said the campus leadership team was actively working on a forum to discuss racial inequality. He said: “It does without saying that this has been a challenging process for all parties involved. I have hard and I understand the perspective of our players as to why they desire to kneel during the national anthem. I also know this form of protest immediately shuts down a number of individuals from listening to the intended message because of their perspective regarding the flag.” He added: “No individual’s sincere motives are inherently wrong, but I continue to contend that we will not get to where we want and need to get as a country in addressing these racial issues without making honest attempts at creating pathways that bring people together for a common cause.” In response to his statement, the students inquired about their First Amendment rights being violated, but he informed the players that those rights did not apply to this situation. Athletes from the men’s and women’s basketball team, football team, and women’s soccer team all joined a video conference discussion arguing that their First Amendment rights had been violated and discussed ways to address the school’s policy. In response, Olive said: “We are a private entity, not a governmental entity. We have policies and guidelines throughout the student handbook and the academic catalog that limit certain rights you otherwise might have elsewhere, such as in your home or in a public venue.” He added: “The most important to me as it pertains to this matter, however, is what I shared earlier. When someone puts on a uniform or is performing a function on behalf of Bluefield College, that person is now representing Bluefield College. Heightened expectations are now placed on that individual as to what s/he can and cannot do or say as a representative of the College.” Players have since decided to stay in the locker room during the national anthem for the rest of the season rather than risk additional forfeitures. Forward Stanley Christian said in a statement: “It’s bigger than us and we don’t want to have the season taken away from us. We feel like we’re in a great position to bring this school a title. So, we’ll stay in the locker room during the national anthem. They don’t want any more backlash and we would definitely take a knee during the anthem.”
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