OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Eight Mississippi players kneeled during the national anthem in response to a Confederacy rally near the arena before the Rebels’ 72-71 victory over Georgia on Saturday.
With the teams lined up across the court at the free throw lines, six players took a knee and bowed at the start of the “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Two other players later joined them.
“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 said. “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.”
The Confederacy demonstration took place a few hundred feet from the arena. In the aftermath of violence at a similar rally in 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Oxford community has been on alert.
Various student groups held counter-protests on campus Thursday and Friday. Saturday’s march, led by Pro-Confederate groups Confederate 901 and the Hiwaymen, also drew counter-protesters. The march began at the Confederate monument on the city square and ended at another Confederate monument in the heart of the Ole Miss campus.
“This was all about the hate groups that came to our community to try spread racism and bigotry,” Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis said. “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.”
Tyree led Ole Miss (19-8, 9-5 Southeastern Conference) with 17 points. Devontae Shuler added 16, and Terence Davis had 13. Rayshaun Hammonds led Georgia (10-17, 1-13) with 16 points.
Georgia opened the second half on a 14-2 run, taking a 43-51 lead on Jordan Harris’ layup.
“We had some defensive breakdown, but I thought Breein made some great plays down the stretch,” Davis said.
Shuler hit a 3-pointer with 1:22 remaining to put the Rebels up 72-69. Georgia’s Claxton made a jumper to finish the scoring with 1:02 to go, and Tyree Crump missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“We knew they were very likely going to come out in zone,” Georgia coach Tom Crean said. “We wanted to get it isolated in that elbow and play it from there. It’s a tough situation. We had the right guy with the ball and just didn’t get what we wanted.”