BLUEFIELD, VA (WOAY) – On Thursday, the WOAY Sports team sat down with Bluefield College president Dr. David Olive to discuss his decision to forfeit the men’s basketball team’s game against Reinhardt University. In a statement released Thursday, he said he made the decision because the team kneeled during the national anthem before a game on February 9.
“[Kneeling] seems to be more divisive than trying to bring folks to an understanding of what perhaps someone is trying to communicate,” Olive said.
On January 30, WOAY aired exclusive video of the Bluefield College men’s basketball team kneeling during the national anthem before their game against Bryan College. It was the first time they kneeled at home inside the Dome Gymnasium. After that game, Olive says he enacted a new policy disallowing players from kneeling.
When the team kneeled again before playing Tennessee Wesleyan on February 9, he punished the team with the forfeit.
Also in the statement, Olive wrote that since Bluefield College is a private institution, students give up some of their personal freedoms when they step foot on campus.
“There are elements of freedom of speech,” Olive said in Thursday’s interview. “But when one puts on a jersey that says Bluefield College on it, I shared with the team it’s no longer your personal message. It now gets interpreted as the college’s message.”
While Olive vehemently disapproves of kneeling during the anthem, he says he supports students’ demonstrating in other ways.
“I even said to the team, ‘I will kneel with you anytime, anywhere. other than during the national anthem.’ And I mean that.”
WOAY was not permitted to speak to men’s basketball players or coaches for this story.