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NAIA to move men’s basketball tournament from Branson over anthem rule

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Should the Tigers qualify for the national tournament for a fourth straight year, the Dakota Wesleyan University men's basketball team won't be going to Branson, Missouri.

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(Republic file photo)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Should the Tigers qualify for the national tournament for a fourth straight year, the Dakota Wesleyan University men’s basketball team won’t be going to Branson, Missouri.

That’s because the NAIA announced Friday the 2018 NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship will be moved due to the host school - the College of the Ozarks’ - recently adopted “No Pledge, No Play” policy. The school declared last month that if opposing teams did not stand for the national anthem prior to sporting events on their campus, the Bobcats would forfeit their games.

In a news release from the NAIA Friday, the association said the decision for the came after multiple meetings on the policy’s impact on the national tournament and the school’s request for the NAIA enact an association-wide policy requiring all players and coaches to stand during the national anthem.

“The NAIA respects the rights of all our members to determine the best course of action for their teams in regards to the national anthem,” said NAIA President Jim Carr in a statement. “However, our first priority is providing student-athletes the best event possible and neither the NAIA nor the College of the Ozarks want this issue to disrupt the competition or diminish the student-athlete experience.”

DWU has made the nearly 650-mile trip to Branson in each of the last three seasons, including finishing as the national runners-up in 2015. The association said the NAIA and the college agreed to move the tournament from Branson, which has hosted the championship for the last 18 years.

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A new location has yet to be determined for the 32-team event, which is scheduled to be played March 7-13. The NAIA Division I men’s basketball tournament is played each year in Kansas City, Missouri and is scheduled for March 14-20.

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