A Virginia college has forfeited a men’s basketball game after suspending players for kneeling during the national anthem, according to multiple reports.
Bluefield College suspended several players for kneeling during the national anthem before games in January and February, Sports Illustrated reported. The players were warned about kneeling several times prior to being suspended.
Bluefield College President David Olive said in a statement on Thursday that his decision to suspend the players was based “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 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 Jan. 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.
The university president said he reached out on Feb. 5 regarding the purported kneeling and suggested alternative forms of protest such as staying in the locker room.
After the team knelt during a home game on Feb. 9, Olive said he told Morgan that “there would be consequences for the actions of the players for violating the College policy.”
ESPN reported on Friday that players decided to stay in the locker room during the national anthem for the rest of the season rather than risk additional forfeitures.
"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."
Kneeling during the national anthem became a heated topic after former NFL star Colin Kaepernick began kneeling in 2016 to protest the police killings of unarmed African Americans.