Ole Miss basketball: Players Respond To Confederate 901 March

ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 20: Head coach Kermit Davis of the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders reacts in the second half against the Syracuse Orange during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Scottrade Center on March 20, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 20: Head coach Kermit Davis of the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders reacts in the second half against the Syracuse Orange during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Scottrade Center on March 20, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

There was a lot of drama created by Ole Miss basketball players when they knelt during the National Anthem in response to protests in Oxford.

It’s been over a week since the group calling themselves Confederate 901 marched from the Oxford square to the Ole Miss campus, causing a response from the Ole Miss basketball team, and the Ole Miss campus is still buzzing about the incidents.

First, you have to understand who these people are. Members of Confederate 901 are described as “a group of patriots who stand up for the Constitution and freedom,” according to the group’s Facebook page and they have 13,500 followers on Facebook.

Confederate 901 will often post videos in response to current issues including LGBT rights, removal of Confederate statues and the media.  901 stands for the Memphis area code where the group is known for taking part in pro-Confederate marches and rallies.

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The group decided to stage a march in Oxford last Saturday, and the timing of that march is no coincidence. It occurred at the same time Ole Miss basketball team was scheduled to tip-off against Georgia.

The 901 Confederates with their Confederate flags and hate-filled rhetoric arrived at the university’s Confederate monument in the Circle not far from the Lyceum. The monument, erected in the Circle 1906 was dedicated by residents of Lafayette County.  In 1962, students rioted against James Meredith’s integration of the university gathered at the same spot.

The march didn’t go unnoticed by the Ole Miss basketball squad. Unless you live under a rock, you know that eight Ole Miss basketball players took a knee during the national anthem to protest the 901 Confederates being on the Ole Miss campus.

The players’ protest had nothing to do with the American flag and is no way affiliated with the NFL kneeling protests started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Regardless, the reaction went viral as you would expect with people on both sides of the equation. Ole Miss basketball head coach Kermit Davis, athletic director Ross Bjork and Ole Miss guard Breein Tyree addressed the situation head-on. Tyree even took to Twitter to explain why they did it and voice his admiration of our military heroes.

Was the decision to kneel a bad look?  Probably so. For those who have relatives who fought in wars and defended our country, a negative reaction is understandable. Put some blame on our educators. I don’t think the schools really teach enough about the purpose and sacrifice that our soldiers and veterans had to endure. You don’t know what you don’t know.

I believe what Tyree, Davis, and Bjork said about the incident and we need to move on from it.  However, there is more to this than just last weekend’s events. Ole Miss has been fighting southern stereotypes since 1962 when James Meredith tried to enroll at the school, sparking riots across the state.

After 1962, some at Ole Miss dug their heels in to protect what they viewed as southern heritage and traditions. Don’t get me wrong, Ole Miss has come a long way, but it’s been a long and painful process. What many may not understand is, the black athletes in the south came from parents and grandparents who were oppressed and discriminated against for years. That pain doesn’t just go away in one generation.

But changes have come, one step at a time.

By 1979, the Ole Miss mascot had been changed from a student dressed in a gray Confederate uniform to a friendly looking Disneyesque character named Colonel Reb. Eventually he, too, was replaced by Rebel Black Bear, a reference to a short story by William Faulkner. Ultimately Ole Miss settled on the Land Shark mascot in 2018.

The song Dixie was played less frequently during games, and then finally banned in 2016. The Confederate flag was banned as an item on a stick in 1997 by then Ole Miss chancellor Robert Khayat, and the band stopped playing From Dixie With Love in 2009.

The removal of these symbols and songs have upset many people, and I get that. When I was at Ole Miss from the late ’70s to the early ’80s, none of the symbols and songs represented anything other than supporting the Rebel sports teams. I think Dixie and From Dixie With Love are beautiful songs, but I’m not the coaches that are trying to recruit the best athletes to come to Ole Miss.  Rest assured, other schools use the past and sometimes the present against Ole Miss.

There are even rumors that a former Mississippi State head coach carried a binder with photos and articles about race issues at Ole Miss, even though most of the items were over thirty years old.

As I said, Ole Miss has come a long way but we have to continue to progress and distance ourselves from anything that reflects racism or hatred. If you want to win championships at Ole Miss, you can’t have it both ways.  I love the past as much as anyone, but I choose to look forward. I want to win!

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I choose to take what Breein Tyree said about the players kneeling at his word. He and the other players may have taken a knee last Saturday, but when they stood back up, they were Ole Miss Rebels and as American as you and me. I stand with them for standing up for our beloved Ole Miss and letting the 901 Confederates and other hate groups know we don’t want them here. We are Ole Miss and you’re not! Hotty Toddy!