Ole Miss Basketball Players Kneel During National Anthem
Eight University of Mississippi ‘Ole Miss’ basketball players took a knee during the national anthem before their game Saturday.
Kermit Davis, the coach for Ole Miss Basketball defended the players saying they did so in direct response to the pro-Confederate rally that was taking place on campus at the same time.
“This was all about the hate groups that came to our community and tried to spread racism and bigotry in our community,” Davis said during his postgame press conference.
“It has created a lot of tension for our campus. I think our players made an emotional decision to show these people they aren’t welcome on our campus, and we respect our players’ freedom and ability to choose that.”
The decision to kneel was to protest a pro-Confederate rally at Oxford Square, less than a mile from The Pavilion, where the game took place.
— NewsWatch Ole Miss (@NewsWatch_UM) February 23, 2019
Player Breein Tyree did not participate in the kneeling protests. He did say that his teammates had decided to do it as a way to show what they believe Ole Miss truly represents.
“I don’t think there was any discussion,” Tyree said. “I think it just kind of intertwined with what coach said. We’re tired of these hate groups coming to our school and portraying our campus like it’s our actual university having these hate groups in our school. Majority of it was we saw one of our teammates doing it and we didn’t want him to be alone.”
For months, a number of student groups have tried to force the university to remove the Confederate monuments that are on campus. In response, roughly 100 protesters, many draped in Confederate garb, marched on campus Saturday to pay tribute to those monuments that honor fallen Confederate soldiers.
After the game, Davis addressed the kneeling.
Kermit Davis addressed the kneeling, as well. pic.twitter.com/Lk9zg2FsZ8
— Chris Kwiecinski (@OchoK_) February 23, 2019
It’s a striking move for players to take a knee in Mississippi, where the Confederate legacy is so ingrained in the state’s culture that the stars and bars of the Confederacy remain on the state flag. The NCAA and the SEC both refuse to hold championships in the state as a direct result of the imagery on the flag. And though Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis had said previously that he would not tolerate his players kneeling during the National Anthem, on Saturday he gave them his support.
“This was all about the hate groups that came to our community and tried to spread racism and bigotry in our community,” Davis said. “This created a lot of tension for our campus. I think our players made an emotional decision to show these people they’re not welcome on our campus. And we respect our players’ freedom and ability to choose that.”
The two protests point to America’s simmering culture wars
The pair of protests on the Ole Miss campus on Saturday represent two threads in the ongoing cultural battle over the legacy of racism and oppression in America: The first is the controversy over National Football League players kneeling during the National Anthem; the second involves the battle over Confederate statues and their symbolism.
The Ole Miss protest was a definite nod to the NFL protests over the last 3 years.
Kneeling during the national anthem became a contentious issue when former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem on the sidelines in 2016. His stance in doing so was to protest racial inequality and police brutality.
It caused a nationwide boycott of the NFL and drastically affected both ticket sales and ratings.
The protests dies down after two seasons, and this last season saw very little of the protests.