Chattanooga, Tenn (By Reid Harvey) – On February 16th, ETSU men’s basketball team traveled to UTC to face off in an interconference matchup against the Mocs. Players from both teams warmed up and participated in their pregame rituals for the same way they have during every other game this season. The players then stand in a line and wait for the announcement of the starting lineup, but before the starters are announced the national anthem is always played. As the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ began to play the members of ETSU’s team and coaching staff all took a knee.
This act of peaceful protest sparked outrage within Tennessee Republican Senators. All 27 members of the GOP signed a letter that was addressed to all the Chancellors and Presidents of the universities in Tennessee. The letter strongly urged that each university come up with a policy prohibiting kneeling during the national anthem.
“The National Anthem is a symbol of pride and for America…” the letter states. “We view this as a teachable moment in which administrators may listen to concerns from students but also exercise leadership in stating unequivocally what the National Anthem means to this nation and explain proper times, places, and manners for expressing protest.”
ETSU’s Head Coach, Jason Shay, says that kneeling is a call to action, and it is not meant to be disrespectful to anyone.
“It was a decision our team made prior to the season as a call to action against racial inequalities and injustices.” Shay stated. “Our intentions by no means involve disrespecting our country’s flag or the servicemen and women that put their lives on the line for our nation.”
Members of the GOP recognize the 1st amendment and do not believe in silencing the voices of American citizens, but they believe that when you put on a jersey representing a University of Tennessee you have to represent the jersey you are wearing. ETSU President Brian Noland echoed this sentiment at a board meeting shortly after the players took a knee.
“We all have to recognize that we’re representatives of this university,” Noland said. “When they put on the blue and gold of their uniforms, they not only represent their teammates, they carry the hopes and dreams and aspirations of this region.”
Noland also stated that ETSU has lost business partnerships over the actions of the team and coaching staff. Since this incident, the team has decided to stay in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem and is expected to continue doing so going forward.