Bluefield College forfeited a men’s basketball game on Thursday after the NAIA school suspended multiple players for kneeling during the national anthems before games over the past two months. School president David Olive revealed that he had told the team’s players to stop kneeling before games.
When the players refused, Olive made the decision to suspend the players that chose to kneel, and that led to the team’s game against Reinhardt University being forfeited.
“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 positively,” Olive said in a statement.
Olive spoke with players, coaches, and the school’s athletic director, Tonia Walker, about kneeling during the national anthem. Even after those discussions, he still decided to suspend the players for their actions.
Olive initially wasn’t aware that players were kneeling during the national anthem. However, on Feb. 1, he became aware that players had kneeled in the previous three games, two of which were on the road. After learning about the recent kneeling, Olive spoke with head coach Richard Morgan and told him that kneeling during the anthem wouldn’t be tolerated.
Following Olive making his declaration clear to the team, Bluefield College players ignored Olive’s order. On Feb. 4, Morgan decided to keep his team in the locker room during the national anthem to avoid backlash.
“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,” Olive said in the statement. “In my opinion, their message was not being heard.”
The team most recently kneeled prior to Tuesday’s game against Tennessee Wesleyan. Following the game, Olive told Morgan that the players would be facing “consequences.”
In the past, sports and politics didn’t mix. It was taboo. Not anymore since this summer. Several leagues, teams, and players have taken a very activist role, and it hasn’t been without controversy. Even the mighty Kentucky University felt a backlash earlier this season for kneeling during the national anthem. Americans are divided on many topics. Kneeling during the national anthem is one of them.