Eight Ole Miss Rebels basketball players knelt during the national anthem during Saturday’s home game against the Georgia Bulldogs in response to a Confederacy rally near the arena, according to NBC News.
“The majority of it was just that we saw one of our teammates doing it and didn’t want him to be alone,” player Breein Tyree told the media. “We’re just tired of these hate groups coming to our school and portraying our campus like we have these hate groups in our actual school.”
Just a few hundred feet from the game, there were protests being held over a Confederate monument on the Oxford, Mississippi campus. On Friday, a throng of people gathered to demand the removal of the more than 100-year old statute.
The following night, two pro-Confederacy groups the Confederate 901 and The
Counterprotesters were at the gathering Saturday, which alerted the Oxford community becuse of similarities it drew to the violent 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia rally.
The Ole Miss players wanted to make a point by kneeling, a protest that has been made popular by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Despite the controversy of the gesture and the racial tension on campus, Ole Miss went on to win the game against Georgia State 72-71.
After the victory, Coach Kermit Davis addressed his players’ kneeling during The Star Spangled Banner in a postgame press conference.
“This was all about the hate groups that came to our community to try spread racism and bigotry,” Davis said. “It’s created a lot of tension for our campus. 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.”