In response to a recent kneeling protest by the basketball team at East Tennessee State University, Tennessee's Republican Senate Caucus has asked leadership at state universities to prohibit student-athletes from kneeling during the national anthem.
Last week members of the ETSU men’s basketball team “took a knee” before a game in Chattanooga, sparking support and outrage across the state.
In a letter dated Monday, Feb. 22, the 27-member GOP caucus requested chancellors and presidents of state universities adopt policies that prohibit kneeling during the national anthem at games in the future.
“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,” the letter reads.
Caucus members described the issue as “a teachable moment” for administrators to listen to student-athletes' concerns “but also exercise leadership.”
“We encourage each of you to adopt policies within your respective athletic departments to prohibit any such actions moving forward,” the letter reads.
I’m disappointed to see the ETSU basketball team take a knee during the national anthem. This is disrespectful to everyone who fought or died to protect our freedoms. We should stand proud with our hands on our hearts or saluting the flag during the anthem https://t.co/DufPtNLSVV— Diana Harshbarger (@DHarshbargerTN1) February 19, 2021
The GOP caucus letter is not the first reaction by Republican lawmakers to the ETSU protest. In addition to state lawmakers sharing their concerns about the action, U.S. Rep. Diana Harshbarger shared in a tweet last week that she was “disappointed” to see the ETSU team take a knee during the anthem.
“This is disrespectful to everyone who fought or died to protect our freedoms,” Harshbarger said. “We should stand proud with our hands on our hearts or saluting the flag during the anthem.”