Column: Kermit Davis doesn’t want his players to kneel. They already weren’t

Posted on Apr 2 2018 - 5:45am by Sam Harres

At his public introduction as head coach of Ole Miss basketball, Kermit Davis gave the usual answers. As a seasoned professional – a college coach for some 35 years – Davis knows how to handle the public.

So if you were wondering, yes, his teams are going to play fast, hard-nosed basketball. And apparently they’re going to transition well, too. One thing they won’t be doing, however, is disrespecting the flag during the national anthem.

“We’re going to play fast and smart in transition. We’re going to try to get easy baskets. We’re going to try to play with great body language,” Davis said at his introduction.

“We’re going to be a team that respects the flag and the national anthem. All of those things from culture is what we’re about. It’s who we’re going to be.”

Zero Ole Miss basketball players knelt for the national anthem during the 2017-2018 season. The same number of Rebels knelt during the 2016-2017 season’s anthems.

Ole Miss’ new men’s basketball head coach Kermit Davis speaks during his introductory press conference in the Pavilion on in March. Photo by Logan Conner

Ole Miss is not unique here; kneeling during the anthem – the “disrespect” Davis seemed to reference in his statement – is virtually unheard of at the collegiate level. A few members of the Vanderbilt women’s basketball team knelt before an exhibition game last October while College of Coastal Georgia players of both genders knelt during pregame anthems in November of 2017. But these are outliers. Kneeling just isn’t an issue in college basketball.

“I hate [my statement] caused anything. It was a four second clip,” Davis told The Daily Mississippian in an interview last Friday. “I respect that guys can have the freedom and platforms and voice their opinions.”

It is not Davis’ personal opinion that raises concern – he is free to think what he wants – but rather his declaration’s timing and setting. Unprompted and in front of fans and members of the media, Davis shared his personal thoughts on a highly controversial issue. Now, he is offering some context for his quote.

“We agreed, in our locker room [at MTSU] that the thing we were going to think about when the national anthem was played is that all men and women of all creeds – black, white, Hispanic, and Asians – who have lost their lives for our country and gave us the great freedom to play basketball on this day. And in our locker room they said ‘cool coach, that’s good.’”

Davis’ former players told him it was okay to have a no-kneeling policy at MTSU. And why wouldn’t they? Davis had direct control over their playing time.

Those players knew better than to speak up.

Colin Kaepernick spoke up two years ago. Today, the six-season NFL veteran is still without a contract. It’s too bad his coach didn’t talk to him about respecting the flag beforehand in the locker room.