After eight Ole Miss basketball players knelt during the national anthem before their game on Saturday, social media has been ablaze with some alumni supporting the players and others threatening to keep their donations from the university.
In response to the Clarion Ledger’s coverage, one typical tweet read, “Good luck with your donors and your alums.”
Ross Bjork tweeted out a set of statements from him and head coach Kermit Davis this weekend in support of the players’ on-court protest, which was met with varied responses from Ole Miss fans.
In reality, the University of Mississippi Foundation President Wendell Weakley said he only received one note from a donor who is removing his or her donation because of the basketball players kneeling.
“It’s really hard to quantify one event and determine what causes (changes in funding),” Weakley said, explaining there have been several controversial events so far this semester, including NCAA violations and a the hiring of a new chancellor. “It’s just too early to tell.”
He calmly explained that he received a similar response when the state flag was removed from the campus in 2015. He received a few notes, as did others in the office. The Foundation passed these notes to University Communications.
“Anecdotally, I understand (the threat to withdraw money from the university) is out there,” Weakley said.
Donations for the main campus in Oxford have remained relatively consistent over the past years, though the entire endowment has fluctuated, he said.
And many of us are not proud.
— Cindy Bounds (@CindyBounds) February 24, 2019
The total university endowment has increased from $594 million in 2014 to $713 million now. New gifts to the university have increased and decreased in the same time period, from $116.6 million in 2014 to $167.6 million in 2016, just one year after the flag was removed. There were only $105.1 million in new donations in 2018.