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Bluefield College Suspends Players for Kneeling During Anthem

February 12, 2021

Multiple players on the Bluefield College men’s basketball team were issued a one-game suspension Wednesday for kneeling during the national anthem, according to a statement from the college’s president, David Olive.

Members of the team began kneeling during the anthem before games on Jan. 23, drawing the attention of news media, and Olive told the men’s basketball coach the action would no longer be allowed. The prohibition was based on “my own awareness of how kneeling is perceived by some in our country” and how “alumni, friends, and donors” of the private, Baptist college in Virginia might perceive the kneeling, Olive’s statement said. Kneeling for the anthem is not “constructive protest,” he said.

“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,” Olive said. “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.”

The players violated the coach and president’s directive several more times, including after a teamwide meeting with Olive, which led to the suspensions, he said. In response to the players’ and other students’ inquiries about their right to free speech, Olive said, “You give up some of those rights when you step foot on our campus.”

“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,” his statement said. “We are a private entity, not a governmental entity.”

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