Debate continues by Tennessee lawmakers over ETSU Men’s Basketball team taking a knee during the national anthem
A hearing on ETSU’s budget quickly turned into a discussion of the ongoing debate of the men’s basketball team taking a knee during the national anthem.
During Wednesday’s Senate Education Committee meeting, Sen. Jon Lundberg of Bristol questioned ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland on the team kneeling to bring awareness to social injustice, asking questions including if it was reflective of the school.
“Do you believe this action (kneeling) is representative of ETSU?” asked Lundberg.
“I look at the actions taken by our students to speak out against social injustice across the country. I think what you’re seeing here are students who are making their voices heard. As you look across our institution, we have a diversity of students, perspectives, and opinions. I realize that many in our region are extremely hurt by this image (of the team kneeling), I do not feel that our students meant any disrespect to veterans, to the flag, or to our country,” Noland said in part.
Lundberg pressed further, asking if Men’s Basketball Head Coach Jason Shay acted in a manner that is representative of the University and the region.
“I think the action of our faculty, of our physicians, and of the individuals that I’ve described are reflective of the actions of this institution. I cannot speak for Coach Shay’s actions on the day this image (of the team kneeling) was taken,” said Noland.
Lundberg continued on the conversation with Dr. Noland, saying, “If those students decided to take another form of protest and they decided to give the flag the bird (middle finger), is that acceptable to you?”
“No sir,” said Noland.
“In my mind, putting that knee down gave the bird (middle finger) to that flag, and I don’t see a difference, tell me what that difference is?” Lundberg asked.
Noland responded, “I deeply regret the feelings of pain and animosity that have emerged across the region. As our players said in their own words, they did not intend to disrespect those who have served or the flag. I recognize the pain this has caused and as a University, we are committed to bringing people together, to heal the issues that have emerged, and to rebuild the relationships that have been damaged,” said Noland.
Lundberg, along with Sen. Rusty Crowe of Johnson City, were among Republican state lawmakers that signed a letter recommending to TN public institutions to adopt policies to prohibit athletic teams from kneeling during the national anthem moving forward.
Sen. Crowe also had comments during the budget hearing about the team kneeling and said in part, “I think the university has lost its way and perspective in this. I think the issue needs to be separated somehow, and coaches need to be teachers, and teach their players in this case the value of the anthem and the flag.”
Democratic Sen. Raumesh Akbari supports the team’s actions, and disagrees with the sentiments that the team taking a knee is disrespectful to the military.
“You cannot tell people who have been the victims of racial injustice how they get to protest, how they get to feel, and what they get to do. This has nothing to do with being patriotic,” said Akbari.
Despite this fiery debate, Senators unanimously approved advancing ETSU’s budget on.
Photo Courtesy: Tennessee State Government