Eight University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) basketball players took a knee during the national anthem before Saturday’s game, in protest of a pro-Confederate rally taking place just a mile away, HuffPost is reporting.
Before their home game against Georgia at The Pavilion stadium, six Rebels players, identified by ESPN as (most likely being) KJ Buffen, D.C. Davis, Brian Halums, Luis Rodriguez, Devontae Shuler, and Bruce Stevens — took a knee. As the final line rang out, two other players — Breein Tyree and potentially Franco Miller Jr. — also joined in the kneeling.
Tyree later explained that he and his teammates took a knee because one player, whom he didn’t identify, wanted to protest a nearby pro-Confederate rally taking place in town and, partially on-campus at Ole Miss.
“The majority of it was we saw one of our teammates doing it and we just didn’t want him to be alone. 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.”
He later said in a tweet that he and his teammates meant no disrespect.
To the people that fight for this country, my teammates and I meant no disrespect to everything that you do for us, but we had to take a stand to the negative things that went on today on our campus. #WeNeedChange
— Breein Tyree (@Breety5) February 23, 2019
Coach Kermit Davis, who last year had promised that his would one that “respects the flag and the national anthem,” said that he has his players’ backs — at least in this case. Specifically, he said that since a “hate group” had come to their city, he gave them a pass this time.
Similarly, Ole Miss Athletic director Ross Bjork also supported the team’s protest — given the nature of the nearby protest.
“These people that come here and spill hate and bigotry and racism, we don’t want them on our campus. Our players stood up for that.”
Several Ole Miss players knelt during the national anthem. pic.twitter.com/AU2OiWcC6F
— Neal McCready (@NealMcCready) February 23, 2019
So what was this business about “hate groups” coming to town that Tyree, Davis and Bjork were referring to? Just down the street in the heart of the city, two right-wing groups, identified by HuffPost as Confederate 901 and Hiwaymen [sic], gathered for a march. Bedecked in pro-white supremacy regalia and carrying Confederate and other flags, the groups marched from one Confederate monument in the city and to another one on-campus.
The groups were met by counter-protesters who sang “This Little Light of Mine” and chanted “Who lost the war?” There were no arrests or violence, according to a local news source.
Organizers called the “Mississippi Stands Rally” as a “line in the sand” against Ole Miss’ decision to distance itself from its Confederate past.