Opinion: East Tennessee State coach, players deserve praise, not scorn, for protesting during anthem

In case you didn't know, one of the bravest group of people during the entire social justice movement in sports wasn't just a quarterback in San Francisco, or an NBA player, or an Olympian, it was a group of college players in a town of 66,000 in the state of Tennessee.

The story of East Tennessee State University, located in Johnson City, isn't as publicized as the fights against systemic racism from mega-names like LeBron James or Colin Kaepernick, but it's just as vital. What's happening there is both inspirational and beautiful, but their story is also about the ugliness of racism, bullying and abuse of power by legislators.

In many ways it's the typical 21st century American story.

The ETSU men's basketball team started protesting during the national anthem at the start of the season. The players were supported by their coach, Jason Shay, who resigned this week.

In a statement, Shay didn't specifically say why he was resigning, but his players said in interviews with ESPN they believed it was because Shay supported them.

"I personally feel like him resigning is crazy," Truth Harris, a freshman point guard, told ESPN in a telephone interview. "It shows a lot of what is going on in this town, and in this country right now."

In a remarkable, and disgraceful, act of intimidation against a bunch of college kids, earlier this season all 27 Republican Caucus members of the Tennessee Senate called on university presidents throughout the state system to prohibit protests on the court.

Interestingly, when several of the legislators were confronted by the Tennessee Holler their responses were, um, less than illuminating. 

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