A number of Ole Miss basketball players knelt during a performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” before their game against Georgia on Saturday. Their silent protest occurred as two pro-Confederacy groups staged a rally in Oxford and marched to campus. The Mississippi Clarion Ledger reports that those groups, Confederate 901 and The Hiwaymen, were rallying against the university distancing itself from Confederate mascots and imagery.
Ole Miss retired “Colonel Reb,” its Confederacy-themed mascot, in 2003. The school also stopped flying the Mississippi state flag in 2015 due to its Confederate iconography. In a Facebook post, Confederate 901 said its intention for the rally was to “draw a line in the sand” against “political correctness.”
Clarion Ledger reporter Nick Suss said there were approximately 100 pro-Confederate protesters present during the rally’s peak. They were met by around 50 counter-protesters.
Kermit Davis has been the Ole Miss head coach since March, and at his introductory press conference he said that his squad would “be a respectful team that respects the flag and the national anthem.” After Saturday’s game, Davis told reporters that the pro-Confederacy rally participants were “trying to spread racism and bigotry” and that he respected his players’ “emotional decision to show these people they’re not welcome on our campus.”
“We’re tired of these hate groups coming to our school,” Junior guard Breein Tyree said.
Ole Miss beat Georgia, 72-71. The Rebels are 19-8 this season.