Bluefield College, an NAIA school in Virginia, forfeited its men’s basketball game on Thursday after the school’s president suspended several players for kneeling during the national anthem.
That forced the team to forfeit its game against Reinhardt on Thursday night.
President suspends players after learning of protests
Olive, per the report, said he only learned that players on the basketball team had been kneeling for the anthem in protest on Feb. 1 after media reports surfaced — something they had done at several previous games both at home and on the road. He told coach Richard Morgan that protest would not be tolerated by him.
Players, however, knelt during the anthem at a game the next day. Two days later, Morgan kept his team in the locker room during the anthem. Olive reportedly reached out to the team once more and said he supported their message, but didn’t like that it was during the national anthem.
"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 my opinion, their message was not being heard."
The team knelt again during the anthem on Feb. 8, and Olive responded by saying that there would be “consequences.” So, he then suspended the players — and told them that any potential First Amendment rights violation didn’t apply here.
Players had reportedly been told they could kneel
Yet Gray, who is close with the team, is confused by the suspensions. He said that the team had been told before the season started that they could kneel in protest — something commonly seen across the sports world that does not disrespect the flag or the country.
Since the suspensions, Gray and others on the football team walked out of a practice — they are playing a spring season due to the COVID-19 pandemic — in solidarity with the basketball team.
"I didn't feel like the football team should practice when the basketball team can't play, just because they stood up for what they believe in," Gray said, . "I peacefully protested practice, but I didn't ask anyone else to leave practice with me. I stood up before [the team prayer] and spoke and made them aware of what was going on. I know we all have one goal."
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