OXFORD — Last week, Ole Miss students protested the presence of a Confederate statue in the circle outside the Lyceum.
Saturday, a group of counter-protesters marched from the Oxford square to the campus.
Events did not go unnoticed by eight Ole Miss basketball players who took a knee during the national anthem before a home game against Georgia.
Comments from new Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis went viral when he was introduced last March and described the approach his Rebels would take in response to the anthem.
“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,” he said then.
Following the Rebels’ 72-71 win over Georgia, Davis said he was not informed in advance of his players’ intentions but was fully supportive of them.
“This was all about the hate groups that came to our community and tried to spread racism and bigotry. 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. We respect our players’ freedom and ability to choose that,” Davis said.
Ole Miss guard Breein Tyree said the decision to kneel was not discussed before the anthem.
The views expressed by counter-protesters do not reflect those of Ole Miss students said Tyree, who was among those taking a knee.
“We’re just tired of these hate groups coming to our school and portraying our campus like it’s our actual university that has these hate groups in our school. We saw one of our teammates doing it, and we just didn’t want him to be alone.”
Tyree said he was not sure which player was first to kneel.
He does not expect the protest to continue into remaining Ole Miss games.
“We’ve never done that before. It really just had to do with them coming to our campus during a basketball (game). That event was going on during the game,” he said.
There were no reports of Ole Miss players kneeling prior to baseball games at Tulane on Friday or Saturday.
Other Ole Miss sports were also in action over the weekend.
Davis said many in Oxford are upset by the presence of “out-of-state groups” who came in for the protest.
“Breein Tyree and these guys, they have a great love for Ole Miss and the Univeristy of Mississippi. They want our campus and our university portrayed in a great way,” Davis said.
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