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College Of The Ozarks Says Teams Must Pledge To Respect Flag Or ‘No Play’

Courtesy of College of the Ozarks

College of the Ozarks, a private Christian college in southwest Missouri, announced Friday that it will require players and coaches from other schools to respect the American flag and the national anthem.

Calling it a “No Pledge, No Play” policy, Jerry Davis, College of the Ozarks president, says the school will not play in games where the flag or the anthem is called into question because that action disrespects veterans.

“It’s a shame sporting events are being used to communicate disrespect for this great country,” Davis says. “We will not be a part of this.”

Davis says that if that means his teams have to forfeit games or even give up the NAIA national men’s basketball tournament, which College of the Ozarks has hosted for the last 18 years, he’s fine with that.

“Better to forfeit a game than to forfeit your honor,” he said.  

Few college coaches have weighed in on the national controversy involving President Trump’s criticism of players who take a knee during the National Anthem as a sign of protesting police brutality against African-Americans, among other issues. In part, that’s because at college football games, the national anthem is played while the teams are still in the locker rooms. That could change during the upcoming basketball season.

College of the Ozarks doesn’t have a football team, but Davis says school officials began talking about the controversy earlier this year. Davis says he’s surprised he was asked if his school has black players during the flurry of phone calls he received after the school sent out a press release Friday afternoon.

Davis says this isn’t about race.

“It’s almost like if you do something that’s politically incorrect, everybody wants to make a racist out of somebody,” he says. “The issue is: proper respect for the country in which we live.”

Seal for College of the Ozarks, which bills itself as "The Little School That Lives on Faith."

Davis has trademarked College of the Ozarks as “Hard Work U” because it allows students in for free and requires them to work. Freshman are required to take military science and a “patriotic goal” is written into the school’s mission statement.

“There’s a goal to encourage an understanding of American heritage, civic responsibility, love of country and willingness to defend it,” Davis says. “We don’t think that insulting veterans, being disrespectful to the country, is consistent with love of country and willingness to defend it.” 

Peggy Lowe is KCUR's investigations editor. She's on Twitter at @peggyllowe.

Lisa Rodriguez is KCUR's afternoon news anchor. She's on Twitter at @larodrig.

I’m a veteran investigative reporter who came up through newspapers and moved to public media. I want to give people a better understanding of the criminal justice system by focusing on its deeper issues, like institutional racism, the poverty-to-prison pipeline and police accountability. Today this beat is much different from how reporters worked it in the past. I’m telling stories about people who are building significant civil rights movements and redefining public safety. Email me at lowep@kcur.org.
Slow news days are a thing of the past. As KCUR’s news director, I want to cut through the noise, provide context to the headlines, and give you news you can use in your daily life – information that will empower you to make informed decisions about your neighborhood, your city and the region. Email me at lisa@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @larodrig.
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