Ole Miss basketball players kneel during national anthem as tensions in Oxford rise

Ole Miss basketball players kneel during national anthem as tensions in Oxford rise
Six Mississippi basketball players take a knee during the national anthem before an NCAA college basketball game against Georgia in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. (Source: Nathanael Gable)

OXFORD, MS (WLBT) - Several Ole Miss men’s basketball players took a knee during the national anthem at Saturday’s game versus Georgia.

The kneeling came in response to a pro-Confederate rally on the campus, which had taken place the same day.

“This was all about the hate groups that came to our community and tried to spread racism and bigotry,” said Ole Miss head basketball coach Kermit Davis at a press conference. “I think our players made an emotional decision.”

Davis said he did not know his players were planning to kneel.

The move comes after a tense weekend at the University of Mississippi, as protests and counter-protests surrounding a Confederate statue were held on campus.

On Friday, Students Against Social Injustice and Students Over Monuments organized a protest that sought the removal of a Confederate statue located on the Ole Miss Circle, where it has stood for over 100 years.

“This campus is not a museum," said Ole Miss student Jared Foster. “It doesn’t belong in a place that honors it. I think it needs to be relocated..."

The Confederate statue has stood in Oxford for over 100 years
The Confederate statue has stood in Oxford for over 100 years

The following day, a rally was held by two pro-Confederate groups who said that the statue has historical value and deserves to stay up.

“We come here to stand for the history in this heritage, the state flag in Mississippi and the values of Ole Miss,” said Billy Sessions, a member of Confederate 901 and the Hiwaymen.

Kneeling during the national anthem, started by past San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, has become a sign of protest against police shootings and other social injustices facing the African-American community.

Ole Miss won their game against Georgia 72-71.

Copyright 2019 WLBT. All rights reserved.