Eight members of the Ole Miss men’s basketball team took a stand against racial bigotry and intolerance during the national anthem prior to their home game against the Georgia Bulldogs on Feb.23. They did so in protest to a Confederate hate group rally by the Confederate 901 and the Highwaymen that was underway on their campus during their game.
These players expressed their frustrations and disgust that these ignorant individuals stir within them and around their campus during the post-game interview following their decisive 72-71 victory over the Bulldogs.
"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," said leading scorer Breein Tyree.
He took to Twitter later that night to expand on his righteous sentiments to make the message that he and his teammates were clearly portrayed and received.
“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,” Tyree said via his account.
It's kind of ironic that it was a team whose mascot is the Rebels, that chose to partake in a nonviolent and peaceful protest to the reprehensible acts, behavior, and ideology of a group of people and culture that once threatened to fracture this great nation over 150 years ago.
These groups that don’t attend classes on this campus and aren’t interested educating or being educated, but instead intend to spread their message of hate, prejudice, and intolerance should not be able to step foot on the ground of higher education with the intentions of disseminating and glorifying that message.
Several student groups around campus have held counter protests every time these hate groups have been on their campus, including the day of the game.
The first year Head Coach Kermit Davis stated that he was not aware that his players would be engaging in the virtuous demonstration but expressed his support for their right to do so and take a stand.
"This was all about the hate groups that came to our community to try 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, and we respect our players' freedom and ability to choose that,'' said Davis in the postgame presser.
Ole Miss Athletic Director Ross Bjork also expressed his support for the players and students that were and still are being bothered by the unwelcome guests on their campus
"These people that come here and they still hate and bigotry and racism, we don't want them on our campus. Our players stood up for that," Bjork said. "It had nothing to do with the anthem. It had nothing to do with anything beyond, we don't want those people here. They're protesting during our game and that's not right because that's not the Ole Miss that I know.'
"We talked to them about that in the locker room. We support them because we don't want those people here, either. The university doesn't want them. Our town doesn't want them. They're out of state. They're not from here. So good for the players to stand up and make a statement."
This courageous act was purely an act of patriotism on the part of these student-athletes that chose to use a platform to highlight and bring attention to the travesties that were and still are occurring across this great country. This act should not be hijacked for anyone’s political gain or agenda and should not be dissected, for it is simply a group of social and morally conscious young men that took a stand by taking a knee.