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Tech Student Athletes Ask State Senators To Talk

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Tech Student Athletes Ask State Senators To Talk

A Tennessee Tech group of student athletes sent a letter to 26 state senators Monday asking to meet them and discuss national anthem protests.

The group CODE, the Center of Diversity Education, called on senators to answer for last week’s letter asking university leaders statewide to stop the protests. In the group’s letter, CODE said “true unity can only be attained through addressing division.”

“It’s a clear cut example of misdirection kind of prevailing once again,” CODE member Jamaal Thompson said. “I think that the manner in which people are electing to protest is to kneel during the anthem. But it has never been about the national anthem or the flag. It is essentially a cry for help and a plea for racial inequality and social injustice to to stop, as well as police brutality. So to be an opposition of that in any way, it’s concerning to me and is discouraging to me.”

A total of 26 senators including local legislators Paul Bailey, Janice Bowling, Mark Pody and Ken Yager signed off on the letter sent to Tennessee Tech President Phil Oldham and the other university leaders statewide.

CODE Member Ezra Pinzur said it was hard deciding not to just simply come out and kneel at the next athletic event. But Pinzur said the group wants to push for real change and discussion instead of emotional reactions.

“You start to realize, you know, that’s the emotional reaction,” Pinzur said. “But why can’t I kneel? Oh, because I have the right. Do I know that I have that right? Yes. I’m blessed to live in a country where we have freedom to express ourselves. So is that really the issue here? No, the issue is not whether I can kneel or not. There is an issue, though, that there is obviously a disconnect between these student athletes and what they want and what they’re trying to express and what our government officials and what many in the community are seeing and hearing.”

Thompson said he sensed a threat within the letter sent by lawmakers that university leaders should get the protests stopped “or else.” He termed it “strongly, strongly suggesting the presidents of these respective universities to put policies and mandate a specific way that student athletes should maneuver and move.”

CODE Member Dane Quest said he understands some feel strongly about the national anthem and what it stands for. Quest said the two sides can sit down and talk about the issue and foster understanding on both sides.

“And yes, there are going to be differences, there are going to be differences in opinion, how you feel about something,” Quest said. “But I think instead of just tuning the other party out, because what we feel like this doesn’t bring awareness or we feel like this isn’t the right way to do it, isn’t conducive, I think, for growth.”

Pinzur said he’s hopeful senators will say yes to the invitation.

“But nothing is a response,” Pinzur said. “Choosing not to sit down and talk with us is a response. Yes, they will respond. Whether they will say ‘yes, we’ll talk’ or ‘no, we can’t,’ I don’t know. We hope it’s yes, I think it will be. But there will be a response.

The Center of Diversity Education came about in the summer of 2020 following racial protests nationwide. It includes some 40 members of the Tech athletic community who wanted to push for diversity, equality, justice and respect. The group has mentored students at multiple Putnam County schools and has worked on campus to make the student athlete’s voice heard.

Thompson said they have received strong support from Dr. Oldham and many faculty members on campus.


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