OXFORD, Miss. — Eight University of Mississippi males’s basketball gamers knelt throughout the nationwide anthem earlier than their sport towards Georgia on Saturday, responding to a pro-Confederate rally happening on campus.
Minutes earlier than tipoff, the groups shaped strains for the anthem. As “The Star-Spangled Banner” started, six gamers from the Rebels took a knee and bowed. Toward the top of the anthem, two teammates joined them.
With the gesture, the Mississippi gamers joined an array of athletes who’ve protested racial injustice by taking a knee throughout the anthem, following an instance set in 2016 by Colin Kaepernick, a former N.F.L. quarterback.
The pro-Confederate demonstration was led by out-of-state protesters a number of hundred toes from the sector.
In the aftermath of violence at an analogous rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, the Oxford group has been on alert. Various scholar teams held counterprotests on the Ole Miss campus on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, one other started on town sq. and ended on the Confederate monument in the guts of campus.
Kermit Davis, 59, the Ole Miss coach, has publicly expressed his displeasure with protests staged throughout the nationwide anthem, and he mentioned after the sport that he didn’t know of his gamers’ intention to kneel.
In his introductory information convention after his hiring final yr, he advised reporters: “We’re going to be a team that respects the flag and the national anthem. All of those things from culture is what we’re about. It’s who we’re going to be.”
The assertion was uncommon not solely as a result of the workforce didn’t have any current historical past of protests throughout the anthem, but additionally as a result of no one had even requested the coach in regards to the difficulty. On Saturday, he addressed his workforce’s protest in a unique manner.
“This was all about the hate groups that came to our community and tried to spread racism and bigotry in our community,” Davis mentioned. “This 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. And we respect our players’ freedom and ability to choose that.”
Guard Breein Tyree mentioned the protest had been largely spontaneous. “The majority of it,” he mentioned, “was we saw one of our teammates doing it, and we just didn’t want him to be alone.”
In the sport, Tyree scored 17 factors to lead Ole Miss (19-Eight, 9-5 Southeastern Conference) to a 72-71 victory. Tyree Crump missed a Three-pointer on the buzzer for Georgia (10-17, 1-13).
The N.C.A.A. and the SEC don’t stage championship occasions in Mississippi as a result of the state flag has the Confederate stars and bars in one nook. South Carolina was beneath an analogous ban till the 2015 elimination of the Confederate flag that had flown in entrance of the State Capitol. At that point, the University of Mississippi’s appearing chancellor publicly urged the state to change its flag.