The Bluefield College Rams basketball team announced their decision to remain in the locker room during the national anthem for the remainder of the season, just one day after they were forced to forfeit a game because the school suspended the entire team for kneeling, reports say.
Forward Stanley Christian told ESPN that the players came to the agreement that they would continue to protest the national anthem in this way after school president Dr. David Olive suspended the entire team for kneeling before their Tuesday home game, forcing them to forfeit Thursday’s game against Reinhardt University.
“It’s bigger than us, and we don’t want to have the season taken away from us,” Christian said. “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.”
In a statement obtained by WVVA, Olive said he was previously unaware that the students had been kneeling and was only made aware of the situation after local media in Virginia covered a Jan. 30 home game. He continued to say that he had informed the team’s coach that any future action would result in consequences for the players.
“After discussing the situation, I shared with Coach (Richard) Morgan that kneeling during the anthem would not be allowed going forward, and I instructed him to share that with his team. I then instructed VP (Tonia) Walker to communicate this prohibition to all the head coaches so that similar incidents would not occur with other teams.”
Olive continued: “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 that after his conversations with the coach, the team had subsequently kneeled again. He met with the players after to discuss other ways in which they could better bring attention to racial injustices.
“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,” he added.
The team remained in the locker room for the following game but then on Tuesday, they decided to kneel and were given a one-game suspension.
“I will kneel with you anywhere at any time as an expression of my solidarity with you to bring about racial justice and equality, except during the National Anthem,” Olive said in his statement.
Christian told ESPN specifically of the meeting they had with Olive and said their decision to kneel came after they felt their voices were not being heard.
“He showed us he didn’t care in the meeting, so we were going to stand up for what we believed in. They wanted us to do it their way so they didn’t have to deal with media or people outside Bluefield.”
Student-athletes expressed their concern after the suspensions were announced, they felt that their First Amendment rights were being violated. Olive addressed those concerns saying that they were not a “governmental entity.”
“As I shared with the team and these other students, you give up some of those rights when you step foot on our campus,” his statement read. “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.”
Bluefield Rams Athletics did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.