The Bluefield Rams men's basketball team forfeited their game against Reinhardt on Thursday after several players were suspended for kneeling during the national anthem.
Per ESPN's David M. Hale, Bluefield College President David Olive issued a statement about the decision.
"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.
Hale noted that players took a knee before "multiple games" in January and February, despite Hale's insistence that they stop doing so, prompting him to issue suspensions.
Jewels Gray, a football player at Bluefield, told Hale the school was contradicting itself after informing the basketball team that they would be permitted to kneel if they chose to do so.
"Why would our school contradict what they said?" Gray said. "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."
Jewels Gray @15_toetap
Today I stood up for what I believe in and I peacefully protested social injustice during my football practice. Colored inequality has occurred on my college campus and within my community against student athletes recently and that’s wrong. I hope I have twitters support ✊🏽✊🏾✊🏿 https://t.co/FrayzzrAH3
According to Hale, Olive learned that Rams players knelt for the anthem prior to four straight games from Jan. 23 to Feb. 2. Head coach Richard Morgan kept his players in the locker room before their games on Feb. 4 and Feb. 6 to "avoid further controversy."
Olive told student-athletes from various sports—including men's and women's basketball, football and women's soccer—that their First Amendment rights didn't apply to this situation during a video conference discussion.
"We are a private entity, not a governmental entity," Olive said in his statement. "We have policies and guidelines throughout the student handbook and the academic catalog that limit certain rights you otherwise might have elsewhere, such as in your home or in a public venue."
Bluefield's next scheduled game is Monday at home against Milligan University.