Head coach Kermit Davis, players speak out about protest

Posted on Feb 28 2019 - 5:58pm by Justin Dial

It’s been almost a week since eight Ole Miss men’s basketball players, led by Devontae Shuler, knelt during the national anthem before the team’s game against Georgia.

Before the team’s first game since the players’ protest last Saturday, the entire Ole Miss roster stood for the anthem.

Kermit Davis. File photo by Justin Joyner

Following Ole Miss’s 73-71 loss to Tennessee on Wednesday night, head coach Kermit Davis, along with senior Terence Davis, spoke out about the players’ on-court protest during the national anthem last weekend.

It doesn’t seem likely that any players on the team will kneel during the anthem again.

“It was just a one-day thing to me,” Terence Davis said. “I was with Devontae Shuler, so we’re just going to move on and worry about basketball.”

Kermit Davis reiterated Terence Davis’s statement about the kneeling being an isolated event.

“We support each other. We love each other. This is a great group,” Kermit Davis said. “(The kneeling) was a one-time incident. We were together on it, and that was it. We knew it was nothing to do with anything but the hate groups that were on our campus.”

When Kermit Davis was asked if he would be OK with this happening again, Terence Davis cut him off to say, “It won’t happen again.”

Terence Davis, who did not kneel during the anthem, explained that the players’ protest had not been planned beforehand.

“We didn’t have any conversations about (kneeling),” Terence Davis said. “It was just like a right then and there type of deal. If you go back and watch the video, I was way on the other side, but I think it was like a domino effect. One of the teammates went down, and I don’t think the guys wanted him to be alone.”

Kermit Davis’s comments during his introductory press conference about his team being one that would “respect the flag and the national anthem” have been brought back to light in lieu of the players’ protest. He’s backed off of those statements, standing in full support of his players.

“I always support our players,” Kermit Davis said. “I know what happened Saturday. It wasn’t about the anthem. It was about what was going on on our campus. They had a right to express their opinions. They did, and we’ve moved on.”

The players’ protest made national headlines around the country on Saturday, sparking a conversation about the neo-Confederate groups that made an appearance in Oxford.

“I think it brought awareness to the campus and what was going on that day,” Terence Davis said. “I don’t think a lot of people know what was going on nationally, so I think that’s what it was really for.”

Kermit Davis reiterated that it was “about a Confederate statue.”

“We didn’t want (the protesters) here,” Kermit Davis said. “Our players didn’t want them here. Our community didn’t want them here, and they’re from out of state. I think our team and administration stuck together.”

When asked if he had any plans to kneel with his team last weekend, Kermit Davis said, “I didn’t know they were going to kneel.”

With all of the attention on the Ole Miss men’s basketball program and the team currently seeking postseason seeding, the players’ protest could easily have turned into a distraction for the rest of the season.

“I thought these guys handled it well,” Kermit Davis said. “It was a one-time incident. (The protest) was happening 250 yards away from our arena when we were tipping it up against Georgia. (Kneeling) was a one-time thing, and obviously by the way we played (against Tennessee), it wasn’t a distraction.”

Almost a week removed from the incident last Saturday, it appears that Kermit Davis and his players are ready to move on and prepare for the SEC Tournament in March.

“It was just because of the people on campus,” Terence Davis said. “They were doing the protest while we were playing. We really aren’t worried about it anymore. It’s out the window. We’re just focused on basketball.”