As debate around the East Tennessee State University men’s basketball team’s decision to kneel for the national anthem continues, university President Brian Noland said during a board of trustees meeting Friday that he hopes the conversation around it creates an “opportunity.”
“It’s my sincere hope that the image of our students expressing their beliefs on the field of play gives us an opportunity to come together to heal, have dialogue and to replace strife with unity,” Noland said.
Noland said he does not believe the team intended to disrespect the flag or the military, but that he recognizes that people have been hurt by the team’s decision — with personal friends and business associates ending relationships with him and the university over it.
Noland also said that while the kneeling reminds him of the “important need for people to express themselves in their own ways … we all have to recognize that we’re representatives of this university.
“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 said.
“When you put on a uniform, you take on a unique responsibility, and I know that the actions of the past few days have caused tension and strife and emotion within our community. I also know that we’ve had a lot of purposeful and intentional conversations regarding social justice and equity and structural disparities in our region.
“Those conversations are healthy and healing and I know that they’re going to plant seeds that will allow roots to grow for change,” he added.
After a game Wednesday night, Coach Jason Shay said kneeling was meant to spark discussion about racial inequality and racial injustice in the country.
“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,” Shay said. “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,” he continued. “My team is a daily reminder to me that some things are just bigger than basketball.”
Shay’s comments, however,…
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