Tennessee Lawmakers Urging Universities To Put More Restrictions On Student Protests

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Published February 25, 2021

On Monday, universities across the state of Tennessee were put on notice after a protest at East Tennessee State University.

During a men’s basketball game, the players chose to kneel during the national anthem.

This has sparked Republican lawmakers to ask state universities to put tighter restrictions on student protests.

Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville

Randy McNally, the Lieutenant Governor, and 26 state senators signed a letter to ETSU, UTC, Tennessee Tech, MTSU, and several other schools across the state.

The letter said, “The National Anthem is a symbol of pride for America,” against allowing any players to kneel during it at sporting events.

The senators said, “During athletic competitions, our student athletes represent not only themselves, but also our universities and all the citizens of this state, many of whom view this form of protest as offensive and disrespectful to the very thing our National Anthem represents.”

The letter went on to say, “While we recognize our student athletes may express their own views on a variety of issues in their personal time, we do not condone any form of protest that could be viewed as disrespectful to our nation or flag while they are representing our state universities. When they don the jersey of a Tennessee university, they step out of their personal roles and into the role of an ambassador for our state. We expect all those who walk onto the field of play representing our universities to also walk onto the field of play to show respect for our National Anthem.”

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After receiving the letter, ETSU said they planned to review their athletic policies. A spokesperson for the entire system of UT schools, Tiffany Carpenter, also responded to the notice.

“We respect the brave men and women who serve and have served in our armed forces, the commitment of legislators Tennesseeans have voted to office, and our student athletes who represent our institutions. We received the letter from the State Senate late yesterday and are engaged in conversations across the System about how to move forward in a way that shows that commitment and respect for all,” Carpenter said.

Jason Shay, the basketball coach at ETSU, said the choice for his players to kneel was an intentional one, made to spark a conversation about social justice issues.

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. You know we hold those heroes near and dear to our hearts, including two generals that have served our country right here in our backyard.”

“No one knows the sacrifice, the fear, the pain, the anxiety, the loss that they’ve experienced fighting for our country’s freedom and rights. But many of us don’t know the same sacrifice, fear, pain and loss the people of color have had to endure over 400 years. My team is a daily reminder to me that some things are just bigger than basketball,” said Shay.

The protest of student-athletes kneeling during the anthem was started in 2016 by Colin Kaepernick.

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4 thoughts on “Tennessee Lawmakers Urging Universities To Put More Restrictions On Student Protests

  • February 25, 2021 at 10:35 pm

    Respect for our country has greatly diminished. I mainly lie responsibility at the feet of the progressives/
    liberals. Our country has been great through generations of people who have understood how much influence the United States has had on our world. I am sure there are many citizens that do not believe our country can fail but it can. The economy, blaming folks for the rift in our society, allowing more immigrants into our country when jobs are already scarce do to the pandemic. There is much more. We need people who believe in our country and way of life to stand and not let this blessed state fail.

    • March 20, 2021 at 9:17 am

      agree 100%

      Kneeling for Presentation of USA Flag and Playing of National Anthem should be stopped. It is a disgrace and a slap in face of families of service men and women who sacrificed their well being with devastating injuries and loss of life to allow these privileged athletes to be treated like babies crying for mama.

  • February 25, 2021 at 10:41 pm

    This is completely inappropriate!! Just like Black History Month utilizes the entire month of February to highlight everything regarding Black history, both past and present, our National Anthem dedicates a mere 2 MINUTES to highlight everything our collective nation, comprised of ALL RACES and ethnicities, has endured and sacrificed since its birth. IMO, This is NOT the appropriate venue to be protesting. As a combat veteran, I find this to be highly offensive and calls in to question Mr Shays conduct as a state employee. He is a coach, NOT a civil rights professor. He should tender his resignation immediately.

  • February 26, 2021 at 6:58 am

    Any athlete at a state university of Tennessee should abide by the suggestion of the Lt. Governor and the 26 state Senators. If any athlete fails to adhere to the policy and disrespect the national anthem they should understand they do so at the expense of their athletic scholarship. Actions should have consequences.


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