JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WCYB) — Dozens of protestors rallied outside Freedom Hall on Saturday ahead of the ETSU men's basketball game against UNCG.
It comes after the team was seen kneeling during the national anthem prior to a road game at Chattanooga on Feb. 15.
Constance Every is a veteran from Knoxville who traveled to the Tri-Cities to show her support.
"That is why you kneel because the reality is that people have been abused under a flag," said Every. "I don’t agree with standing for something that honestly is harmful to my moral and personal belief system."
The rally also comes just days after some state lawmakers are urging college presidents to prohibit kneeling during the anthem.
"I don’t want someone who is racist holding a seat, when they see Black men take a knee against police brutalities, and the racism that we’re dealing with in our lives," said Every.
The rally was met with counter-protestors.
Veteran Rick Ward wanted to make his voice heard.
"This isn’t a black and white issue. It’s not red white and blue, it’s red," said Ward. "There’s been a lot of blood shed for this country and I had to lay those people to rest in Arlington to give them the right to do what they’re doing."
Protestors marched up to the doors of Freedom Hall where they knelt down to show their solidarity and support for the basketball team that was playing inside.
"A lot of people died in the cold and the rain to give us the right to be here right now," said Ward. "That’s what that flag and this flag is all about."
UNCG defeated ETSU 85-74 in overtime. After the game, players and head coach Jason Shay addressed the kneeling controversy.
"Be equal. And treat each other with respect and equality," said ETSU graduate senior Silas Adheke. "That’s what we were kneeling for. We didn’t intend to hurt the people that we hurt and disrespect the American flag because we respect the American flag."
Senior Vonnie Patterson had similar feelings.
"We definitely did not intend to hurt anybody’s feelings," said Patterson. "It came from a place of love."
“I just wanted to bring attention to it, back to it. Our players did," said Shay. "Ultimately, I am my brother's keeper. This is about people and then moving forward."