Bluefield Alumni Support Basketball Team’s Protest

By Brian Carlton

February 15, 2021

A total of 200 alumni from multiple countries call on college to change their policy

BLUEFIELD-It’s time for a change. Two hundred Bluefield College alumni delivered that message this weekend. The group demanded the school make changes in the wake of the men’s basketball team suspensions. 

On Friday, we reported in the Download about the Bluefield College men’s basketball team. They forfeited a game, as the school suspended every player. In a letter sent out Thursday to the campus community, Bluefield President David Olive said he told the team they couldn’t kneel during the national anthem. When the students did it anyway at the Feb. 9 home game, he decided to suspend them. As for why he did it? Olive also made that clear in the letter. 

“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 wrote. 

After hearing that, several alumni are making it clear Olive doesn’t speak for them. 

A Call to Action

In an open letter to Olive, 200 Bluefield alumni from across the world say they don’t understand why their college is opposed to kneeling. 

“Taking a knee during the national anthem is a form of protest with the purpose of drawing attention to ongoing police brutality directed toward African Americans,” the letter states. “As a Christian institution, Bluefield College should easily be able to acknowledge that the loss of the lives of unarmed African Americans at the hands of police is not only a worthy social concern, but a matter of Gospel integrity out of respect for the Image of God in every person.”

The group also reminds Olive that when he took over, he quoted Micah 6:8 in his installation speech. The Biblical verse says “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” They argue the men’s basketball team is acting justly by calling attention to racial injustice. 

Now, the group of alumni want to see four things happen. That includes: 

  • An immediate public apology by Dr. Olive to the team
  • A public statement from the Bluefield administration, expressing support for students exercising their right to protest
  • A written policy, created by the school, protecting the rights of students to both protest peacefully on and off campus property without fear of retaliation
  • An opportunity for athletes on the men’s basketball team to issue their own public statement on the issue.

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Change is Needed

In his original statement, Olive said he understood why players wanted to kneel. But he felt the message was being ignored. As soon as players kneeled, Olive argued, some people would tune them out.  

“No individual’s sincere motives are inherently wrong,” Olive wrote. “But I continue to contend that we will not get to where we want and need to get as a country in addressing these racial issues without making honest attempts at creating pathways that bring people together for a common cause.” 

The alumni pointed out, however, that kneeling during the anthem isn’t new. It’s been repeatedly explained why someone decides to take a knee, rather than turn their back or use some other gesture. 

“To persist in the view that kneeling during the national anthem is an act of disrespect rather than an act of protest to draw attention to racial injustice particularly as it relates to police brutality is to remain willfully ignorant,” the alumni say in their response. “That this was done to students during February, Black History Month, further highlights Dr. Olive’s and Bluefield College’s lack of empathy and awareness.” 

Coach Couldn’t See

This isn’t the first time the team knelt during the national anthem. They did it at multiple home and away games in January and early February. However, Olive said he and the coaching staff weren’t aware of the previous incidents. That changed when a local tv station did a story on the practice. Coach Richard Morgan told Olive that due to where he was standing on the basketball court, he couldn’t see that the players were kneeling during the anthem.

Dogwood reached out to Bluefield College and has not received a response to the alumni letter. The suspension was only for one game, so the team should be back on the court tonight for a home game against Milligan University. The school hasn’t made an official announcement, however.

Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at [email protected].

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