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.
Several Ole Miss players knelt during the national anthem. pic.twitter.com/AU2OiWcC6F— Neal McCready (@NealMcCready) February 23, 2019
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.
Here is video of the pro-Confederate march from Nick Suss: https://t.co/1qZPmU2MEy— Neal McCready (@NealMcCready) February 23, 2019
You do realize that the Civil War was North vs South and the Whig Party still existed?.... 📚👨🏫👩🎓— AnnaLisa Pac-Man (@QuaintnQuixotic) February 24, 2019
What would you call it? It appears to be a group of people, supporting a confederate symbol... so, in short “a pro confederate” rally/March.— Katie Lea (@KateLeaa) February 24, 2019
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.
Every player that knelt should be kick off the team disgraceful— Kenny Young (@Kenny_Young58) February 24, 2019
I see alot of people on here backing the kneeling and attacking someones opinions. both have constitutional rights. I just dont want this to turn out like the NFL an get alot of negative attention that hurts these colleges and Boosters may not pay anymore.— WARTIGER! WAREAGLE! (@jeremyminton9) February 24, 2019
Elite basketball players on scholarship haven't a drop of gratitude for how lucky they are. The entitlement culture on display.— Jerry Levy (@JerryLe00723434) February 23, 2019
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.
These are the real Americans. This is courage. https://t.co/pLS8035M3Y— Callie Khouri (@CallieKhouri) February 23, 2019
It's really telling when people are more offended by silent protesting, than the racist people they're protesting against.— Dan Graham (@danielgra92) February 24, 2019
No need to engage with anyone who deliberately misunderstands these men protesting systemic racial injustice in America. https://t.co/U8gptxeeqR— Patrick Claybon (@PatrickClaybon) February 23, 2019
Amazing more people are offended by kneeling than a confederate rally.— Bill Mcalary (@bill_mcalary) February 24, 2019
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.