BLUEFIELD, VA (WOAY) – “I took all of the stuff out of my closet,” said former Bluefield College basketball player Cedric Brown. “All of the accolades and all of the things that read Bluefield College, those aren’t posted here in my office anymore because this is something I can’t get behind.”
Brown graduated from Bluefield College in 2006 after a decorated athletic career that took him overseas to play professionally. He looks back fondly on his time at the school and even met his future wife there. But Brown’s perception of his alma mater changed, when president Dr. David Olive made the men’s basketball team forfeit a game for kneeling during the anthem.
“When I read the story, my heart broke,” said Brown. “My heart broke being that these kids don’t have the support, don’t have the backing of the people who brought them sometimes hundreds or thousands of miles away.”
Brown is one of over 200 alumni to sign a petition asking the school to let the men’s basketball team kneel. In the group’s open letter, they demand a public apology from Dr. David Olive for making the team forfeit a game. They also want the school to endorse student-athletes rights to peacefully protest and allow the team to release its own statement on this issue. Class of 2010 graduated Megan Westra decided to craft the statement after seeing the media coverage her alma mater was receiving.
“There were wonderful things about my time at Bluefield College, profound ways that it has impacted my life,” said Westra. “And it is really heartbreaking that this is how so many people in our country are being introduced to Bluefield. Especially when it didn’t have to be this way.”
Westra takes particular issue with the president saying he supports student-athletes kneeling at any other time but not during the national anthem.
“That to me, smacks of idolatry,” explained Westra. “At that point, you’re saying we value the national anthem over these students’ lives and these students’ voices. And how can you say you value the image of God when you have prioritized a symbol and a song above them?”
Kneeling isn’t how Brown personally chooses to protest. But he supports student-athletes right to demonstrate however they want to. He thinks that by focusing on the anthem itself, the college is ignoring the message athletes want to convey.
“We allow people to start and make their own narrative,” said Brown. “Why don’t we listen to the message and find out what the true message is and find out what’s really going on? And then, let’s make a judgment then.”
Given the recent events, Brown and Westra are currently not comfortable sending their kids to Bluefield College. But they hope this petition is a step towards reconciliation.
“The step forward looks like, you acknowledge the wrong done and you repair it and you return to a path that leads to flourishing for everybody,” said Westra.
WOAY also exchanged emails with Bluefield College Class of 2006 graduate Jesse C. Flowers. Flowers served for six years in the US Army.
“I adamantly believe that the students were participating in a meaningful, peaceful protest—the right to which is something I personally fought and bled for,” wrote Flowers. “Frankly, I am sick of the ‘you’re dishonoring the military and veterans’ rationale posited by those in opposition to kneeling during the anthem. I am not dishonored by their action—and even if I were, that would be their right.”