‘When you put on a uniform you take on a unique responsibility’: ETSU president addresses players kneeling during anthem

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland acknowledged the men’s basketball team’s decision to kneel during the national anthem has caused pain across the region and doesn’t reflect the region’s values.

“I’ve heard from many of them over the past few days as events have unfolded here at ETSU and know those events and actions do not reflect our values,” Dr. Noland said.

Noland spoke for the first time about the recent controversy during the ETSU Board of Trustees meeting on Friday.

“Earlier this week at an athletic event, a group of students kneeled during the national anthem, something that has repeatedly occurred on other college campuses across the nation.  By no means do I believe that any of our students intended for their actions to be disrespectful to our flag, our veterans, our service members, or their families.  However, I recognize the hurt, the pain, and the emotion that been evidenced across this region,” he said.

Noland said the university has faced tremendous pushback, and that he has personally as well.

“I have friends who’ve told me they are no longer my friends.  I have business associates who’ve said they’ll no longer do business with this university.  And I have family members who are mad at me as I mention in my comments…I know we have a lot of work to do to rebuild faith and I don’t know if it’s possible to rebuild that faith because this is such an emotionally charged issue,” he said.

Noland said players and coaches who wear an ETSU uniform must adhere to specific standards.

“When they put on the blue and gold of their uniforms, they not only represent their teammates they carry the hopes and dreams and aspirations of this region. When you put on a uniform you take on a unique responsibility,” he said.

Board of Trustees member Kelly Wolfe questioned Noland about how he’ll handle the public backlash over the decision.  He said he hoped no one will be ostracized for voicing their opinions.

“You’ve got a little bit of a challenge to rebuild some trust here because I think things were handled very, very poorly,” Wolfe said.

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