Bluefield College, a small Baptist liberal arts school nestled in the Appalachian mountains in Bluefield, Virginia doesn’t seem to be a likely place to make national news. But when players on the men’s basketball team took a knee during the playing of the national anthem — after being warned several times it was against school policy — the school president promptly suspended the players and forfeited a game.
The players had knelt several times before games in January and February, at both home and away contests. After being warned about the practice, the players decided to stay in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem before an away game.
But before the game on February 9, the players decided to kneel for the anthem. College President David Olive told the coach, “there would be consequences for the actions of the players for violating the College policy.” Those consequences involved suspending the entire team and forfeiting a game.
In a statement, Olive said his decision to suspend the entire team was based “on 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.”
Olive said he became aware on Feb. 1 that players had knelt during a Jan. 30 home game against Bryan College, as well as during away games on Jan. 23 and 26. He then 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 Feb. 2 game, and the team was kept in the locker room during the national anthem at an away game on Feb. 4.
It’s not like Olive didn’t give them fair warning. If the players’ object was to test Olive and see how far he’d go, they were certainly given a rude surprise.
The players are not revolutionaries and seem a little taken aback by all the fuss. They just want to play ball.
“It’s bigger than us, and we don’t want to have the season taken away from us,” forward Stanley Christian told ESPN.”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.”
The players claim that a pro-Trump rally held near the campus shows that some protests are OK with the school. But the school pointed out that the Trump rally was held on city streets, not college grounds.
That didn’t satisfy the players: “So it’s OK for everyone to have a Trump rally with Confederate flags, but it’s not OK for us to kneel for our people who’ve fallen,” Christian said. “He didn’t have an answer for that.”
This is the mind of a child in the body of a college athlete. The Trump rally was not on the college grounds. The school had no connection with it. Olive tried to explain that to all the children on campus.
“We are a private entity, not a governmental entity,” Olive said in his statement. “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. 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.”
It’s a shame other college presidents and pro sports team owners didn’t have the courage of David Olive of Bluefield College.