Kermit Davis really shot himself in the foot when he took a stand on national anthem protests.
The new Ole Miss coach and former Middle Tennessee State coach said in his introductory press conference Monday the usual remarks that any coach would. But besides being a cheerleader for his new team, he also took a political stance.
“We’re going to be a respectful team that respects the flag and the National Anthem,” he said. “All those things from culture is what we’re about. It’s who we’re going to be.”
— Ole Miss Basketball (@OleMissMBB) March 20, 2018
Now, I don’t need to tell you that black NCAA athletes are about even with white athletes in amount of participants, but the NCAA has those. I don’t need to tell you that basketball has one of the highest participation rates of black athletes compared to white athletes, but that is the fact.
Davis is taking over a school who had a mascot until 2010 explicitly from the Confederacy, which fought for the right to own slaves. Unless you’ve been looking away, I don’t need to tell you America needs to still continue to fight systemic racism that has been instilled in the United States.
The anthem protests started with former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem to protest that inequality and continued into other protests. Davis has now taken away his platform to let those players speak out.
Now picture yourself a recruit, which, I know is hard because everyone is so in love with themselves they can’t put themselves in another person’s shoes. But imagine a coach is trying to speak for your right to protest the very systems that promote inequality?
Some recruits might jump at the chance to trade their first amendment rights to get wiped across the floor by the upper tier of the Southeastern Conference. But I think many recruits with multiple offers may look elsewhere.
What Davis did, as NBC Sports writer Rob Dauster pointed out, will harm his recruiting and give other coaches material to use against him. Not only that, he is controlling the player’s right to free speech in favor of control.
Being a coach involves fostering players to become not only a part of a team, but be able to be fully functioning adults in the real world who can come to their own opinions. Davis is failing in that mission by immediately silencing a viewpoint and not letting his players act like adults.
Davis doesn’t even have to come out in full support of the movement, mere silence would have been better than what he set out to do.
In his role, Davis still has a chance to learn and change if he is so willing to. Sometimes life issues are more important to address than the x’s and o’s of a game that doesn’t matter too much in the scheme of things.
But who am I to know? Change coming from a school that got up in arms about a Star Wars posing as a challenge to confederate icon? I may be too optimistic.