Several college basketball players were suspended by their school for kneeling during the national anthem, forcing the team to forfeit their game.
Members of the Bluefield College basketball team, which plays in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics league, were suspended by school president David Olive before a game Thursday once he learned that the players had been kneeling for the anthem after being specifically told not to, according to the New York Post.
“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 in a statement.
Olive said he found out the players knelt for the anthem before a game on Feb. 1 and told the coach to have the team stop, but the players took a knee again before a game the next day.
Some student-athletes at the school were reportedly upset about Olive’s decision and say they were told by school officials they were permitted to kneel.
“Why would our school contradict what they said?” Jewels Gray, a football player at Bluefield College, said about the controversy. “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%.”
Olive said he understands the player’s perspective but argued that the message isn’t being heard when they choose to protest during the national anthem.
“I have heard and I understand the perspective of our players as to why they desire to kneel during the national anthem,” Olive said. “I also know this form of protest immediately shuts down a number of individuals from listening to the intended message because of their perspective regarding the flag.”
Kneeling for the national anthem and abstaining from the ceremony altogether was brought to the forefront in 2017 by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee in a protest that he said was motivated by racial injustice in the United States.