Eight University of Mississippi basketball players kneeled during the National Anthem before Saturday’s game against Georgia. The gesture was in response to a Confederacy rally held near the arena.
Moments before their game against Georgia, both teams formed lines for the anthem. When the Star-Spangled Banner began to play, six of the players from the “Rebels” took a knee, CBS Jackson, Mississippi affliate WJTV reports. Toward the end of the anthem, two of players joined in, WJTV reports.
“The majority of it was just that we saw one of our teammates doing it and didn’t want him to be alone,” Ole Miss scoring leader Breein Tyree told the Associated Press. “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.”
Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis defended the players’ protest during the post-game press conference, the Clarion-Ledger reports.
“This was all about the hate groups that came to our community and tried to spread racism and bigotry … in our community,” Davis said. “It has created a lot of tension for our campus. I think our players made an emotional decision to show these people they aren’t welcome on our campus, and we respect our players’ freedom and ability to choose that.”
According to the Clarion-Ledger, there were about 100 pro-Confederate protesters marched from The Square, which houses a monument to fallen Confederate soldiers, to The Circle on Ole Miss’ campus, where another monument is located. K-Rack Johnson with Confederate 901 told the Clarion-Ledger the march was organized in response to a Students Against Social Injustice protest held in November that advocated for the removal of these Confederate monuments.
There were about 50 counter-protesters Saturday, according to the Clarion-Ledger.
Various of student groups held counter-protests on Thursday and Friday ahead the rally.