The behavior of East Tennessee State University (ETSU) basketball has caught the ire of their congresswoman. Freshman Representative Diana Harshbarger (R-TN-01) criticized the basketball team on Thursday after the team’s practice of kneeling in protest to the national anthem was made known.
ETSU Head Coach Jason Shay supported his team’s decision, stating that the country’s soldiers and people of color have experienced similar levels of “sacrifice, fear, pain, anxiety, [and] loss.”
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
Harshbarger told The Tennessee Star that there are better ways to raise awareness for causes and issues than taking a knee during the national anthem.
“Two of our core American values, the freedoms of expression and speech, are part of what makes America a shining city upon a Hill,” stated Harshbarger. “Many patriotic Americans, myself included, see this as an insult to all that our country stands for and to those who have served our country.”
In response to Shay’s remarks on supporting his team’s decision, Harshbarger indicated that the protest has certainly sparked a conversation within the communities – but perhaps not in the most productive way.
“Coach Shay mentioned his thought that ETSU basketball team protest would spark a conversation about issues in our communities, and it has certainly done so. I don’t agree with the mechanism of taking a knee he allowed to be used by his athletes to start the conversation. Leadership starts at the top and if there’s a problem, it’s the coaches of these young players who set the example. It’s easy to do what other athletes in major league sports are doing but it’s not so easy to be a responsible citizen and go to those in charge in a community and present your case,” stated Harshbarger. “It’s time our school leaders and those in authority teach our young people how to do the responsible thing and ‘stand up’ and make their case. That’s how you grow as an adult.”
In its origins and throughout history traditionally, the national anthem represented the founding principles fought for and preserved by those who have served the nation. “The Star-Spangled Banner” was crafted by Francis Scott Key after witnessing the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. The attacks by the British convinced Key that their country was losing, but the unexpected vision of the American flag at dawn assured him of their victory – and the nation’s resilience.
Famed statesman and escaped slave Frederick Douglass admired the song himself. He would play it often on his violin, sometimes to his grandchildren. In response to the Civil War’s end, Douglass referenced the phrase coined by Key – “star-spangled banner” – to honor those who fought and died to end slavery.
“If today we have a country not boiling in an agony of blood, like France, if now we have a united country, no longer cursed by the hell-black system of human bondage, if the American name is no longer a byword and a hissing to a mocking earth, if the star-spangled banner floats only over free American citizens in every quarter of the land, and our country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, and civilization, we are indebted to the unselfish devotion of the noble army who rest in these honored graves all around us,” stated Douglass.
Shay didn’t respond to request for comment by press time.
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