Ole Miss players K.J. Buffen, Terence Davis, Luis Rodriguez, Bruce Stevens, Devontae Shuler and Breein Tyree knelt during the playing of the national anthem before their team’s game against Georgia on Saturday. The reason that these athletes—who hadn’t done an on-court anthem demonstration before—chose today to do this protest was because of an ongoing pro-Confederacy march that would end at the school.
The Confederate 901 and Hiwaymen, the two flag-humping chud groups in charge, created the “Mississippi Stands Rally” Facebook event in January as a call to “draw the line in the sand” over the University of Mississippi’s decision to distance itself from its confederate past. These attempts include removing the antebellum-era planter mascot from athletic events in 2003, eliminating “From Dixie with Love” from the pep band’s repertoire in 2009 and creating contextualization plaques for buildings that were built from slave labor.
While this completely justified protest is newsworthy on its own, what makes this particular protest interesting is head coach Kermit Davis’s comments on the flag and national anthem. In his introductory press conference he said the following (emphasis mine):
“What is Ole Miss Basketball going to look like? It’s going to be relentless, athletic, explosive, a team that’s going to have to play on and on and on to beat. It’s going to be a team that’s going to be unselfish. We’re going to play fast and smart in transition. We’re going to try to get easy baskets. We’re going to try to play with great body language. We’re going to be a respectful team that respects the flag and the national anthem. All those things from culture is what we’re about. It’s who we’re going to be.”
So what happened here? One would hope that Davis was so bothered by the pro-confederacy marches that were going on just outside campus that he okay’d the protest because the people outside “don’t truly respect the flag and this country,” or something. Oddly enough, that’s sort of what happened. Though he was not aware that the players’ protest was going to happen, Davis made his (or at least the program’s) respect for the decision known.
“I was not (aware). I was going to address it afterwards, I’ll address it now. This was all about the hate groups that came to our community trying to spread racism and bigotry, you know, in our community. It’s 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. We respect our players’ freedom and ability to choose that.”
Ole Miss, proving yet again that a player’s decision to kneel during the anthem does not affect their ability to play their sport, would go on to beat Georgia 72-71.