Last edited 10:16 a.m., Nov. 1, 2017
After 18 years hosting a national men’s basketball tournament, College of the Ozarks will not serve as its home in 2018 because of the school’s new national anthem policy. Through the move, the Branson market’s economy will lose the effect of tens of thousands of annual visitors.
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics is relocating the 2018 Men’s Division II Basketball National Tournament after a request by C of O, according to a news release. The tournament brings about 20,000 visitors to Branson with an annual estimated economic impact of $2 million, said NAIA spokeswoman Jennifer Saab.
Some 650 volunteers, including faculty, staff, students and community members, helped the college during the 2017 tournament, according to CofO.edu. Schools are not paid for hosting the tournament, Saab said.
The switch stems from C of O’s decision in September to enact a “no pledge, no play” policy through which the college will not participate in games unless all participating players and coaches stand for the national anthem. C of O officials also called on the NAIA to implement a similar policy among its 250 members schools.
NAIA officials said while they encourage everyone in attendance at games to stand for the national anthem, they also respect the First Amendment right to peaceful protests. “Because the NAIA is made up of 250 diverse schools, the association believes it is in the best interest of the institutions to let them individually decide what actions are acceptable for their coaches and student-athletes,” officials wrote in the release.
“College of the Ozarks has been a gracious and accommodating championship host for 18 years,” NAIA President Jim Carr said in the release. “We appreciate their hospitality, as do the many student-athletes who had the privilege of playing in the DII national championship in Branson.”
A news release from C of O indicates the college requested the tournament be moved after the NAIA declined to put its own anthem policy into place or hold a forum prior to the 2018 tournament.
“The college felt that its concerns were not taken seriously by the committee and requested that the tournament be moved,” C of O President Jerry Davis said in the release. “They refused to craft a simple policy requiring players to stand for the national anthem.
“The NAIA’s refusal demonstrates a lack of moral clarity on a significant national issue. Their decision contradicts their own character emphasis that identifies respect as a key trait, and we believe they are missing a golden opportunity to teach student-athletes about the honor due our country and its veterans.”
C of O has offered to help the NAIA relocate the tournament, but a new venue has not yet been selected.
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