ETSU players believe head coach was forced to resign because of national anthem protest support

Jason Shay, head coach of East Tennessee State University, announced his resignation from the program after just a year at the helm, and ETSU players believe that the head coach was forced out because of his support for his players protesting racial injustice during the national anthem.

Shay announced his resignation on March 30, citing personal challenges and a desire to chase new goals.

“This past year has been extremely challenging for me in many different ways. It is the right time for a new challenge and an opportunity to reset my personal and professional goals,” he said in a statement.

MORE: A timeline of protests during the national anthem

Players, though, don’t feel the whole story is being told. ETSU’s Jordan Coffin tweeted support for Shay during the week after the resignation, mentioning his support of the protests during the anthem as a potential reason why, while other players shared the same opinion.

“All this about us kneeling, and then coach Shay supporting us through all of that … people should want a coach that stands behind their players like through anything. I don’t think that’s fair, life isn’t fair, for this to play a part in a coach that cares and supports about his players, for that to be a part of why he has to resign, then I don’t want no parts of that.”

Truth Harris, who is now in the NCAA transfer portal, told ESPN that Shay’s resignation was crazy and is also indicative of bigger issues.

“I personally feel like him resigning is crazy,” Harris told ESPN. “It shows a lot of what is going on in this town, and in this country right now.”

In February, Tennessee lawmakers pushed to prohibit protests during the national anthem before sporting events in the wake of ETSU kneeling before a matchup against Chattanooga on Feb. 15. 

Shay wholeheartedly supported his players’ right to protest during the national anthem then, and he’s without a job now.

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