A case of “March Badness” broke out today at the NCAA Tournament in Indiana. Players from five college basketball teams turned the “Big Dance” into the “Big Kneel.” Four of the NCAA Tournament’s first five games were marred by national anthem protesters.
The first team to disrespect the flag and the national anthem was Colgate. Yahoo Sports reported that eight players knelt, but a photo shows six players kneeling and two non-uniformed individuals doing likewise. Colgate went on to lose to Arkansas, 85-68, so its kneeling “season” has come to an inglorious end.
The Florida-Virginia Tech game was marred by protests from both teams. Florida won that game in overtime, 75-70, so it will advance to Sunday’s second round. Along with the prospects of another shameful protest.
Sixteenth-seeded Drexel players knelt most of the season. All but two of the Dragons players took a knee during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner before Friday’s game against No. 1-seeded Illinois. After his team absorbed a thorough beating, Drexel coach Zach Spiker (appearing in photo) said he supported his players’ controversial behavior:
““I think we’ve got a locker room where we’re pretty open and upfront about things. I’m proud of our guys and I support our guys in how they choose to express themselves.
“If all of us people could take a step back and think about what our players have experienced in the last year emotionally, social injustice, the emotion of a very intense [presidential] election, and then you mix in a pandemic. That’s a lot for anybody to take in, especially a young person in the situation that our guys are in.”
Five members of the second-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes made a disgraceful display prior to the tip-off of their game against Oral Roberts. Ohio State became just the ninth No. 2 seed to lose to a 15th-seeded team.
The Associated Press reported, “College athletes have not been shy about showing public support for social causes and even pushing back against perceived inequities by the NCAA.”
Though there was little media coverage, kneeling was common throughout the regular college basketball season. One small school, Bluefield College, (in Virginia) suspended several team members for kneeling and also forfeited a game in February when players defied the college president’s no-kneeling edict.
On another protest front dogging the “Big Dance,” Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon and other players threatened to boycott tournament games. They’re waging a #NotNCAAProperty protest on social media against the NCAA for not allowing athletes to be compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses.