Sioux Falls gets to host the NAIA Division II men’s basketball championships for the next couple years. Yay, sport.
The first tournament happens at the Sanford Pentagon this coming March, on the 7th through the 13th. That’s pretty short notice for a national tournament. During that period, the Sanford Pentagon calendar currently lists a Skyforce game and the March Mayhem youth basketball tournament.
Sioux Falls has landed this lucrative schedule change because the Sioux Falls Sports Authority and co-hosts Dakota State University and Northwestern College aren’t as persnickety about forced displays of patriotism as College of the Ozarks in Branson, Missouri, which had hosted the contest for 18 years and was slated to host again in 2018 but told NAIA to beat it when the organization refused to require athletes to stand for the National Anthem:
C of O President Jerry Davis said in a news release that the school requested to develop a forum to discuss the issue with players and coaches prior to the beginning of the tournament.
“Unfortunately, the executive committee of the Council of Presidents refused to create a policy or hold a forum,” Davis said in the release. “As a result, the College felt that its concerns were not taken seriously by the committee and requested that the tournament be moved. The College is willing to help with the move to another venue.”
…“The NAIA missed the opportunity to take a stand,” 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” [Wyatt D. Wheeler, “Anthem Protest Policy Moves NAIA Basketball Tournament Away from College of the Ozarks,” Springfield (MO) News-Leader, 2017.11.27].
The Christian college’s determination to require everyone express patriotism according to the college’s rules will cost Branson and the Ozarks region millions of dollars in economic impact. (Sioux City boosters claim recent NAIA D-2 women’s basketball tournaments have generated between $9.5 million and $17 million in economic activity.) The college also tramples on good theology by requiring all freshmen to take a military science class to make all of its students appreciate “the most successful military organization in the world.” The C of O student handbook also makes the theologically problematic claim that “Christ-like character” includes being “patriotic.” Funny—I don’t recall any Scriptural mention of Jesus standing up for any Roman anthems.
NAIA basketball fans and Christians alike will surely cheer Sioux Falls and South Dakota for providing a more liberal, inclusive venue that respects the diverse ideas and freedom of expression of student athletes.
The American flag is performing the exact same function for NFL spectators that the Artemis statues performed for the people of Ephesus. The National Anthem is being used as a pious hymn that turns the spectacle of male gladiators beating each other up into a legitimate religious ceremony. The early fathers of the Christian church would have zero ambivalence about our duties as Christians to declare Jesus as Lord in the face of obvious idolatry. When they chose to nonviolently kneel rather than hailing Caesar’s statue, they were thrown to the lions. No early Christian would stand for our national anthem [Morgan Guyton, “When It Became My Duty Not to Stand for the National Anthem,” Patheos: Progressive Christian, 2017.09.23].