‘I don’t want people to be hurt for doing the right thing’: Johnson City leaders hope for community understanding amid ETSU controversy

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — More community leaders in Johnson City are expressing disbelief and outrage over Jason Shay’s resignation.

Retired pastor Bobby Black said he supports the East Tennessee State University’s basketball team in kneeling, and Coach Shay’s decision to resign from his post.

He hopes more community leaders continue to use their platform when speaking out, within reason.

“Basketball is part of their life, but it’s not all of their life. They’re not selling out their soul just to play basketball. They don’t only just shut up and dribble. They have a voice, they want to be able to at least speak to injustice,” Black said. “When I see these things happen, my heart hurts, and now my heart is hurting for Coach Shay, knowing that I don’t want people to be hurt for doing the right thing, and he did the right thing.”

The retired Johnson City pastor says universities are supposed to be settings for free thinkers, discourse and debate and not for, what he calls, “aggressive governance.”

“This is the time where the curtain has been pulled back and you see people wanting to keep their grimy little fingers wrapped around the through of justice and freedom and free expression,” Black said.

Black, who marched in the 1995 Million Man March, a gathering of nearly one million African American men to promote African American unity and family values.

“I was proud that these young men who came here to express themselves and were courageous enough to express themselves, and I was proud of Coach Shay in that he stood with them because he stood for the right, not for the narrative that had been hijacked by our state representatives and state legislatures,” Black said.

Kyle Hicks, executive director of LXI, a program for inner-city youth, said, “I’m hurting for those young athletes. Those young men. You know, they don’t get kind of a release bonus of $450,000 over the course of the next two years. They don’t get healthcare for their entire families. They enter that transfer portal and they are leaving wounded, with nothing.”

Hicks hopes for more conversations between one another.

“I think that where we get off is when we begin to label just one another bad without listening to each other’s stories,” Hicks said.

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