College of the Ozarks said it will walk away from any game if the opposing team takes a knee, sits or turns its back on the American flag or national anthem.
The private Christian college announced Friday that it put the college teams it plays — and even the national athletic conference it is a part of — on official notice that no signs of disrespect will be allowed.
“This college is not going to be part of an event where disrespect happens,” C of O President Jerry Davis told the News-Leader. “If they don’t agree to our conditions, there won’t be a game.”
The college revised its sports competition contracts to stipulate that all participating players must respect the flag and national anthem.
Davis said the college will cancel games with teams that refuse to sign the revised pact and forfeit others if any disrespect is perceived during a game. “Our coach will simply remove our players from the court.”
He said the college has contemplated taking the step for a long time but forged ahead after NFL players reacted to President Donald Trump calling for professional athletes who protest at games to be fired.
“It’s a shame sporting events are being used to communicate disrespect for this great country,” Davis said, in a release. “We will not be a part of this.”
Davis said the cabinet wanted to make clear the college’s expectations for its student athletes as well as the teams they play.
The college is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and has hosted the National Men’s Basketball Tournament for the past 18 years. Davis pointed out the association promotes good character.
“We don’t think disrespect of our country is consistent with the NAIA’s character initiative and certainly not with the patriotic goal of this school,” he said in a news release. “We would like to see the NAIA lead in a campaign for respect for America and those who wear the uniform to defend our way of life, both at home and around the world.”
Davis said it’s time for colleges to be “positive role models.”
“If our decision is a problem for the NAIA, if they want to move their tournament, they certainly can,” he said.
Nationally, a debate has raged over what the players’ protests have meant and whether they have the right to express their views at all. Some NFL players have stated that their actions aren’t about disrespecting the country or the military but, instead, about drawing attention to racism.
Davis said the college will not apologize for its commitment to patriotism, and he isn’t interested in debating why players have been protesting.
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