Ole Miss basketball players kneel before game in protest of confederate rally in Oxford
According to Vox, eight players from the Ole Miss men’s basketball program knelt during the national anthem in protest of a rally on campus in support of Confederate monuments. After the game was over, Ole Miss guard Breein Tyree, who is also the 2018-2019 Chair of the SEC Leadership Council, told reporters at a press conference, “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.”
In Mississippi, the Confederate flag is still part of the state flag, which is part of the reason both the NCAA and the SEC refuse to hold any championships in the state. Calling back to Colin Kaepernick’s protests of 2016, the Ole Miss protest takes place during a battle over what to do with the Civil War era iconography at the Oxford, Mississippi campus. On Saturday, 100 protesters, most of whom who were dressed in Confederate clothes, marched on campus in tribute to fallen Confederate soldiers.
Upon taking the job at Ole Miss, Head Coach Kermit Davis initially declared that he wanted players to stand for the anthem and respect the flag. However, the events of Saturday left the coach singing a new tune. “This was all about the hate groups that came to our community and tried to spread racism and bigotry in our community,” Davis said. “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.”
As Vox reports, the situation at Ole Miss is a perfect microcosm for the debate that swirls around the country around athletes speaking out about social justice. Many conservative white men on social media decry the intrusion of “politics” on amateur sports completely dismissive of the fact that sports and politics have never been separate entities. LeBron James’ Shut Up and Dribble documentary, which traces the intersections of sports and activism in America, deftly illuminates the historical context for protest within the context of American sports and basketball in particular.