College Basketball Team to Stay in Locker Room During National Anthem After Suspension for Kneeling

by Suzanne Halliburton

The Bluefield Rams, the college basketball team suspended for kneeling for the national anthem, now will stay in the locker room when the “Star Spangled Banner” is played before their games.

Their decision to stay in the locker room will cover the remaining games of the season.

The college basketball team has kneeled on and off throughout the season. However, school president David Olive said he spoke to the coaches after he learned the team hadn’t stood at attention for the anthem before a game, Jan. 30. Olive said he also met with players for two hours.

But the college basketball team kneeled again, Tuesday. The team rallied from a double-digit deficit for a victory over the Tennessee Wesleyan University Bulldogs. Then Olive suspended the entire team. The squad was given the choice to stand for the anthem or forfeit their next game. They opted to forfeit.

Bluefield Is College Basketball Program in Virginia

Bluefield is a small NAIA college basketball program that plays in the Appalachian Athletic Conference. The Baptist school bills itself as “Virginia’s premier Christ-centered liberal arts college.”

Stanley Christian, a forward on the college basketball team, told ESPN that the players decided together that they would protest the anthem by staying in the locker room.

“It’s bigger than us, and we don’t want to have the season taken away from us,” 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.” 

Olive told local media that the coaches for all Bluefield teams now know that “kneeling wouldn’t be allowed going forward.”

Olive said: “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.” 

But Olive said he told the players “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.”

Christian said he and other players didn’t believe Olive cared.

“So we were going to stand up for what we believed in,” Christian said. “They wanted us to do it their way so they didn’t have to deal with media or people outside Bluefield.”