Tennessee lawmakers sent a letter to each of the state’s nine public Division I universities on Monday, encouraging them to implement policies to prevent athletes from kneeling while playing the national anthem.
Each of the state’s 27 Republican senators, including Lieutenant Government Randall McNally, signed their assent to the notion in the letter, which was addressed to the respective chancellors and presidents of the universities. The move appears to be a direct response to the East Tennessee State University men’s basketball team, whose players knelt during “The Star-Spangled Banner” in a February 16 game against Tennessee-Chatananogo.
The practice of kneeling during the national anthem has become common in recent years after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick popularized the action. Athletes of all levels have used their platform to peacefully protest issues of police brutality, systemic racism and racial injustice.
However, Tennessee Republican senators described the practice as “abusive”.
MORE: Bluefield College stops NAIA basketball game after players suspended for kneeling during national anthem
“When we recognize that our student-athletes can express their views on various issues in their personal time, we do not condemn any form of protests that represent our nation’s organizations while representing our state organizations Can be seen as an insult to our flag. , “The letter reads.” When they donate to a University of Tennessee jersey, they step out of their individual roles and into the role of an ambassador in our state.
“To address this issue, we encourage each of you to adopt policies within our respective athletic departments to prevent any such action going forward.”
ETSU coach Jason Shey and president Brian Noland both supported the team’s actions, saying it was not intended to be disrespect, but sought to deliberate on racial inequality. According to Nashville’s Tennessee
, State senators questioned the act in a Monday meeting with a representative of the University of Tennessee general counsel party.
“The First Amendment is sacred,” said Sen. Janice Bowling (Through tenian) Belongs to. “I would never oppose anything that would allow them to use their First Amendment on their own time, of course. They are representing the school and the school represents Tennessee and Tennessee gives preference to our time-honored people and institutions who went before us. We honor our heritage and our history. “
The action recommended by Tennessee senators may become a First Amendment issue among state public universities; The counselor member of the school stated that the First Amendment rights of the students were protected by its code of conduct. Earlier in February, however, private NAIA University Bluefield College seized a men’s basketball game, as the university president suspended players for kneeling during the anthem.
The Tennysian report states that lawmakers have successfully cut funding for public universities as a means of stopping actions they found offensive. To that end, state Democrats have warned universities to move cautiously.
“If we’re really trying not to be divisive, what can we do so that people don’t want to kneel?” Said Vincent Dixie, president of the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus. “What can we do to get it out of the equation?” What is the reason for making them kneel in peaceful protest?
“So we can’t protest peacefully? We don’t protest violently. But you want to knock us down or students down at every turn.”