JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The resignation of former ETSU men’s basketball coach Jason Shay has sparked a number of reactions across the Tri-Cities.
The news, while sudden, has in some cases sparked outrage among players, students, and community members. A number of activist groups from across the Tri-Cities see Shay leaving the university as an injustice and as a result, have planned a protest for the upcoming week.
On Tuesday, an event hosted by the New Generation Freedom fighters, supported by the local chapter of the NAACP, the New Panthers Initiative, and Tri-Cities Mutual Aid will be held in support of Shay and the Buccaneers.
The event is planned to take place on Tuesday, April 6th at 4:30 p.m. just outside of the ETSU campus along State of Franklin Road.
A flyer circulating on social media, originating on the Facebook page of the New Generation Freedom Fighters states along with bringing your voices and signs, you’re also encouraged to bring your mask as they will be following CDC guidelines during this event.
Katelyn Yarbrough, the chairperson for the New Generation Freedom Fighters, said the event is called “Back down corruption and back the Bucs.” Yarbrough is no stranger to protests across the Tri-Cities having helped organize a number of the events this past summer and most recently, an event backing the men’s basketball team following their decision to kneel during the national anthem at some away games.
Yarbrough said it’s important to keep supporting this team and Shay.
“These actions do not represent the folks that live here that do believe that black lives matter, that Asian lives matter and that racism and hatred and intolerance just won’t be tolerated here,” said Yarbrough.
Tavia Sillmon, the president of the Washington County/Johnson City NAACP, said Shay did exactly what he should have done as a coach in supporting his players and that it’s a shame he had to pay the price. She went on to say she hopes the community comes out in full force to this event on Tuesday.
“The whole purpose of this is to support the ETSU basketball team to let them know that they are not alone and exercising their first amendment right was not in vain and that they have the support of the community,” said Sillmon.
Another protest is set to be held on Friday, this one aimed at boycotting Johnson City Honda, a longtime supporter of ETSU athletics that has recently come under fire.
According to a flyer posted by a representative with the New Panthers Initiative, the boycott will take place Friday, April 9th from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at North Roan Street.
Yarbrough said she whole-heartedly supports this boycott as well. “If you have money, then you have power and you can do whatever you want to and that’s not going to fly so boycotting this business is going to be what’s necessary to hit them in the pocket,” she said.
Ed Wolff, the host of black/white dialogue and the NAACP treasurer says he’s been listening to these conversations for a long time and he plans to attend both events. In light of recent national news, he said what’s happening here is happening everywhere and he hates to see it.
“If they don’t play the game that they want them to play, then they get rid of them and they get somebody else and they have no concern for the individuals that are involved and they hid behind the American flag,” said Wolff.
Yarbrough is calling on those interested in attending to bring their voices and signs and not forget their masks because they intend to stay safe and socially distance while supporting this cause they believe in.
Kemp Faneto with the New Panthers Initiative also weighed in on the upcoming events. He sent News Channel 11 this statement:
“It is a coaches obligation to back up and support their players and back their players and that’s exactly what Coach Shay has done so now it is our obligation as a Region/State and even as a country to back the coach and the men’s basketball team as a whole.
You may not be an ETSU fan but when we are speaking on racial injustices all over the US we all should be on the same team. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it many more times to come. The same people who are condemning these athletes for peacefully kneeling in silent protest are the same people who were silent and even siding with the officer who kneeled on the neck of a black man for 8 mins 46 sec.
I hope you all see what is happening here these athletes are being criticized and gaining scrutiny because they practiced their 1st Amendment rights.
While these people are watching these players on TV from their privileged home these young black players have to be worried about being slaughtered/brutalized on the way back home or even when they get home they kneeled to show that they are unapologetically black and with everything going on in this state that was tremendously brave of these players and Coach Shay and I and so many others across this nation truly want to say thank you all.Kemp Faneto, New Panthers Initiative