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Ole Miss Basketball Players Kneel During National Anthem In Protest Of Nearby Pro-Confederate Rally

Over the weekend, several University of Mississippi basketball players knelt during the national anthem. Video and photos were shared widely online.

Before their match against Georgia on Saturday, six players took a knee during a performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

As the song drew to a close, two more players joined them.

The players of Ole Miss’ knelt in response to a pro-Confederate rally taking place about a mile away. The rally members were protesting people calling for the removal of a statue commemorating unnamed Confederate soldiers.

The rally also had issues with the “discontinuation of Colonel Reb as [the university’s] mascot and other efforts the university has taken to distance itself from Confederate heritage” according to the Clarion Ledger.

The kneeling by the team is surprising, as last spring, the university hired a new head coach, Kermit Davis.

Davis was very particular about the controversy surrounding kneeling during the anthem saying,

“We’re going to be a respectful team that respects the flag and the National Anthem.”

This interpretation misses the point of kneeling, which is to still show respect to the flag, while also drawing attention to the protest itself.

However, it appears the coach is not alone in misunderstanding why athletes started kneeling during the anthem.

That said, after the game, Davis was more sympathetic to the action his players took than his comments last year would have you believe.

He supported their choice, and pointed out the issue they were addressing.

“This was all about the hate groups that came to our community trying to spread racism and bigotry. It’s created a lot of tension for our campus and our players made an emotional decision to show these people they are not welcome on our campus, and I respect our players’ freedom and ability to choose that.”

One of the players, Breein Tyree, commented as well, saying,

“We’re just 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.”

It’s great to see these young men have their voices supported.

The protest and counter-protest of the Confederate monument and university decisions drew around 100 people. The statue in question was dedicated in 1937, and recently had protests calling for its removal in 2016.

The university tried to assuage both sides by leaving the statue up, but added a plaque and released a paper on the historical context of the statue.

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Written by Ben Acosta

Ben Acosta is an Arizona-based fiction author and freelance writer. In his free time, he critiques media and acts in local stage productions.