Tennessee Republicans are up in arms over a state college basketball team's decision to kneel last week during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," prompting legislators to warn the public university system not to allow student athletes to do so again.
A firestorm of controversy has surrounded the action by players on the men's East Tennessee State University basketball team, who during a Feb. 16 game at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga dropped to one knee on the court as the national anthem played.
Coach Jason Shay and ETSU president Brian Noland have said the team did not intend to disrespect that nation's flag or military, but are seeking to prompt discussions about racial inequality.
After voicing their outrage in legislative meetings, local television news segments and social media posts over the players' act of peaceful protest, Senate Republicans on Monday sent a letter to all presidents and chancellors of public Tennessee colleges and universities.
"To address this issue, we encourage each of you to adopt policies within your respective athletic departments to prohibit any such actions moving forward," reads the letter, signed by all 27 members of the Senate Republican Caucus, including Lt. Gov. Randy McNally.
The Republican senators stated the national anthem represents "freedoms we enjoy as Americans" and "the ultimate sacrifice paid by many in order for us to enjoy those freedoms," but went on to say the act of kneeling during the anthem is seen by some as "offensive and disrespectful to the very thing our National Anthem represents."