Eight University of Mississippi players took a knee during the national anthem moments before their game against Georgia in protest of a pro-Confederate rally near Oxford, Mississippi. 

Late Saturday night, the group of student-athlete protesters joined countless others in the protest movement started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The Clarion-Ledger reports the protest was a direct response to a pro-Confederate rally on Oxford's Square, within one mile of the college campus.

The Mississippi Stands Rally was organized by two pro-Confederate groups called Confederate 901 and The Hiwaymen who claim their heritage is under attack. Ole Miss has taken efforts in recent years to distance itself from the racist legacy of the Confederacy. One of the most significant changes is the discontinued use of Colonel Reb as the university's mascot.

Approximately 200 pro-Confederate sympathizers reportedly descended near the campus. University officials instructed students to steer clear of the rallygoers, but some students staged counter-protests. 

Blavitize your inbox! Join our daily newsletter for fresh stories and breaking news.

Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis, who once was against the kneeling protests, came out in support of his players. During a post-game press junket, he said their protest was a quiet rebuke against the rise of hate and racism. 

"This was all about the hate groups that came to our community trying to spread racism and bigotry," Davis said after the game. "It's created a lot of tension for our campus and our players made an emotional decision to show these people they are not welcome on our campus, and I respect our players' freedom and ability to choose that."

Center Breein Tyree added, via a tweet, hate groups of any kind are not welcome on the campus. These groups cast a negative light on Ole Miss. He and others are willing to use their platforms to confront them head-on.

"To the people that fight for this country, my teammates and I meant no disrespect to everything that you do for us, but we had to take a stand to the negative things that went on today on our campus. #WeNeedChange"

Ole Miss went on to beat the University of Georgia Bulldogs 72-71, improving their NCAA Tournament chances.