Players and coaches of Ole Miss and Florida took a knee before Saturday’s game for a moment of unity to protest civil injustices and racial disparities in America. And while these SEC football teams may have been unified, fans on Twitter were divided over the planned gesture.
The teams issued a joint statement before the game, Sports Illustrated reported.
“As members of the Ole Miss and Florida football teams, we recognize the impact of our personal platforms and are choosing to amplify the issues that directly impact us. Together we have chosen to take the opening series of today’s competition to acknowledge the unrest in our country surrounding the treatment of African Americans. We will continue to support social justice efforts as members of the Southeastern Conference and members of our respective communities.”
Fans on social media had a lot to say about the teams kneeling.
Many took issue with the people upset over the protest. The SEC football players didn’t kneel during the national anthem. They took a knee just before kickoff after players had taken the field. The Gators were penalized for delay of game, but Ole Miss declined the penalty.
Players kneeling has become the most contentious issue in sports. NFL players have been kneeling to protest racial inequality since Colin Kaepernick did it in 2016. But fans have been turning away from the league. Many of them leaving because of players kneeling during the anthem or the way they are being treated because of it, a survey found.
Some fans worry college football will become entangled in the practice as well.
SEC Football and college protests differs from pros
College players generally don’t take the field before the national anthem. So kneeling during the anthem, if it is done, isn’t done publicly. Though it does happen.
But college players have still taken to raising awareness of social inequalities in other ways.
At the University of Florida, for instance, players this week met with police officers to have a discussion on policing and race. The team posted a video of the discussions on Twitter.
This summer, players and coaches across Mississippi came together to ask the state to change its flag, CBS reported. The flag featured the Confederate Flag’s stars and bars in its design. The campaign, which featured 40 coaches from across Mississippi, including Ole Miss’s Lane Kiffin, was successful. The state legislature voted to change the flag in June.
“This is a great day to be a Mississippian,” Ole Miss athletic director Keith Carter told CBS. “I am proud of all who have had a part in this momentous decision for our state, including the leaders on our own campus that fought hard for what is right. While there is still much work to be done, this is a big step in achieving the welcoming and inclusive environment that our state needs and every person deserves.”