BLUEFIELD, Va. (WNCN) — Bluefield College, a school that competes athletically in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics has forfeited its game scheduled to take place today after players were suspended for kneeling during the national anthem at recent games.
In a statement on Thursday, Bluefield College president David Olive said that after players knelt during multiple games in January and February, even after he’d told them to stop, he decided to suspend all athletes involved, which resulted in a forfeit of the NAIA Division II Appalachian Athletic Conference game against Reinhardt.
“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,” Olive said.
Olive, who is white, recounted a conversation he had with coaches, players and the school’s athletic director, Tonia Walker, who is Black, over kneeling during the anthem. Olive decided to take action after seeing reports of the kneeling on local TV news.
“During the home basketball game against Bryan College on Saturday, Jan. 30, the men’s team members kneeled during the National Anthem, and a local television station captured their actions on video that later aired during the 11:00 PM news report. The station requested comment from the College, and a statement was prepared and released to the television station without any notification or involvement with the Director of Public Relations and Marketing or me.”
Jewels Gray, a football player for Bluefield College took to Twitter to stand in solidarity with players who decided to kneel during the anthem.
“Today I stood up for what I believe in and I peacefully protested social injustice during my football practice. Colored inequality has occurred on my college campus and within my community against student athletes recently and that’s wrong,” Gray said on Twitter.
According to Olive, players ignored head coach Richard Morgan’s “suggestions of alternate forms of more constructive protest” and his “directive that players not kneel during the anthem.”
“While we could not reconcile their desire to kneel during the anthem with the College’s policy prohibiting that practice, we discussed options, such as staying in the locker room, to avoid consequences related to kneeling on court during the anthem,” Olive said. “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.”
Read the entire statement here.