CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – The issue of kneeling during the national anthem has become a topic of debate over the last few years, with a number of notable athletes choosing to kneel to protest racial injustice.
Now with ETSU basketball players doing the same during a recent matchup with UTC, that debate has been reignited.
The event prompted Tennessee’s Senate Republican Caucus to send a letter to the presidents of both ETSU and UTC urging the schools’ athletics departments to adopt policies that ban kneeling during the anthem.
However, UTC Political Science Department Head Michelle Deardorff says that due to both schools both being state schools, any acts of protest cannot be prohibited by faculty.
“Because UTC and ETSU are both state universities, students who attend have full – it’s not like a private school where the state can limit their free exercise of speech, religion, press, etc. we can not at a state school. Students themselves have like every other citizen, the right to express their freedom of speech and the state can not content censor,” says Deardorff.
Students also sounded off on the controversy, with some saying it was within the players’ rights to protest, and others saying the demonstration was disrespectful.
“I think it’s disrespectful just because they’re not at home and they’re not here and they should like respect our views and like what our team does. Personally like my view is like that’s disrespectful so I guess it could be their freedom of speech but that’s just how I see it,” says student Leigh-Ann Schmidt.
“Personally I don’t really find it that controversial, kind of like I was telling you. I’m white so it’s really not my place to tell a person of color how to deal with the institutionalized racism since 1776, the founding of our country. And so if that’s how they feel the need to express themselves and make a statement, by all means go for it,” says student Camille Luttrell.