Bluefield College Criticized After Suspending Players For Anthem Protests

Bluefield College in Virginia is garnering more attention than it ever has before. However, that may not be a good thing. The Bluefield College men's basketball team was forced to forfeit its most recent game after suspending a number of players for kneeling during the national anthem.

Conversations regarding the matter began in January when players decided to kneel during the anthem. Bluefield College President David Olive learned of the trend at the start of February and contacted the school's athletic department Tonia Walker. After learning of the move and speaking to Walker, Olive told basketball coach Richard Morgan that kneeling during the anthem would not be tolerated. At that point, the school started suspending players.

"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.

This move runs counter to what some athletes thought was accepted by the school. One of the school's football players, Jewels Gray, said that there were no moves to bar kneeling during the anthem at the start of the school year. Gray also told ESPN that he has learned that the players who have been suspended are not allowed to make statements or talk to the media.

"Why would our school contradict what they said?" Gray asked.

"We had meetings before the season with [the athletic director] and the president, and they stated that we can kneel and they'd support and be behind us, 100 percent."

Olive attempted to defend his move by claiming that he has had conversations with the players and supports their reasons for protesting. However, he feels that the national anthem is not the time to express their sentiments.

"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 added.

"In my opinion, their message was not being heard."

It is entirely possible that there message will never be heard because they are being stripped of the platform they had earned as basketball players at the school. Furthermore, it is possible that those who feel their message is being diluted never wanted to hear or truly understand it from the beginning.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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