As pro-Confederate marched through the University of Mississippi (“Ole Miss”) campus in defense of their ancestors who fought to defend the enslavement of African Americans during the Civil War on Saturday, eight players from the university’s men’s basketball team took a knee during the National Anthem in protest.
The eight Ole Miss players taking a knee during the national anthem — KJ Buffen, D.C. Davis, Brian Halums, Luis Rodriguez, Devontae Shuler, Bruce Stevens, Breein Tyree, and Franco Miller Jr. — were adopting the same protest followed a number of professional athletes over the past two years, according to ESPN.
The players’ narrow home win against Georgia was overshadowed by their act of courage against the white nationalists rallying just down the road.
“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,” the team’s scoring leader Tyree said after the game, according to ESPN.
Taking a knee during the national anthem was a risky protest by the players, especially in a deep-red state conservative state such as Mississippi.
The protest movement was started by former 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who kneeled in opposition against police brutality and systemic racism during the 2016 NFL season.
Kaepernick drew the ire of conservatives including President Donald Trump. He and his former teammate Eric Reid, who also took a knee to protest racism, have since settled with the NFL after taking legal action against the league, which they accused of colluding to keep them from being hired on any NFL team.
By contrast, Ole Miss’ coach Kermit Davis supported his players after the game.
“This was all about the hate groups that came to our community to try to spread racism and bigotry,” Davis said according to ESPN.
“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,” he added.
Saturday’s pro-Confederate rally, hosted by the groups The Highwaymen and Confederate 901, was billed as a protest involving people “Fed up with this Political Correctness BS” against calls by Ole Miss campus activists for the university to remove a Confederate memorial from campus grounds.
The protesters, who marched through the school’s Oxford, Mississippi campus, claimed the rally was not in defense of racism, rather their “history” and their “heritage,” Billy Sessions of The Highwaymen group claimed.
During a prayer at the start of the rally, however, one black pro-Confederate protester H.K. Edgerton thanked “all the Christian white folks” and plantation owners in the south “who took that heathen in Africa who didn’t know anything about Jesus Christ.”