About 45 minutes before the College of the Ozarks volleyball team’s match on Friday, a man walked in with a box of new uniforms.
Head coach Stacy Muckenthaler said she didn’t know what they’d look like. All she knew was that they wouldn’t have a Nike swoosh.
The College of the Ozarks volleyball team played its first games since the school announced it would “choose its country over company“ and remove all athletic uniforms purchased from Nike that contain the brand’s famous swoosh emblem.
The private Christian college of about 1,500 students announced in a news release Wednesday that student-athletes will no longer wear the brand in response to the company’s 30th-anniversary ad campaign featuring former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“In their new ad campaign, we believe Nike executives are promoting an attitude of division and disrespect toward America,” College of the Ozarks President Jerry C. Davis said in the release. “If Nike is ashamed of America, we are ashamed of them. We also believe that those who know what sacrifice is all about are more likely to be wearing a military uniform than an athletic uniform.”
When the team opened the box, they found gray T-shirts with numbers on the front and back with “OZARKS” across the back.
According to Muckenthaler, the team only cares about having their school name on their jerseys. One player declined to comment after the C of O’s sweep of Williams Baptist in straight games at the Evangel Classic and referred questions about Nike to Muckenthaler.
Muckenthaler said the program will switch to Adidas uniforms, and players wore Adidas shorts Saturday.
The Nike swoosh was part of the volleyball team’s shirts and shorts prior.
“They don’t care what T-shirt they’re wearing,” Muckenthaler said. “They just want to play volleyball.”
With some extra attention on the school’s latest stance, Muckenthaler said it was nice to get away from the Point Lookout campus and to focus on volleyball.
She said it wasn’t hard to keep the team focused on the sport.
Unlike major athletics programs that have long-term contracts that pay millions, College of the Ozarks had no such arrangement with Nike. C of O spokesperson Valorie Coleman told USA TODAY Sports earlier this week the coaches would no longer to be able to purchase Nike gear as result of the new mandate.
The school has taken stands against protests involving Kaepernick in the past.
The college announced in September 2017 that the school’s teams would walk away from any game where the opposing team takes a knee, sits or turns its back on the American flag or national anthem.
In response, the 2018 Men’s Division II NAIA Basketball National Tournament was moved from the school, which had hosted the tournament for the previous 18 seasons. The tournament is now played in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
“Our school is very consistent,” Muckenthaler said. “They are tried and true. They have a belief system and they hold true to that. It’s not easy to make decisions that they make. I’m just very proud of the institution and I’m happy to wear ‘Ozarks’ on the back of our jerseys right now, even if it is a T-shirt.”
The head coach said her father is in the military, while her husband is a police officer. She’s proud of where she works.
“I’m just so proud of the college for taking a stand,” she said. “Those two positions are very important to me and the school is very important to me. I’m just very proud of them.”