Newly hired Kermit Davis says Ole Miss will 'be a team that respects the flag'

In the middle of his inaugural speech introducing himself to his new school on Monday, recently hired Ole Miss men’s basketball coach Kermit Davis veered off in an unexpected direction.

Unprompted, he listed standing at attention during the national anthem as one of the core qualities he expects to be synonymous with his program.

“What is Ole Miss Basketball going to look like?” Davis asked rhetorically. “It’s going to be relentless, athletic, explosive, a team that you’re going to have to play on and on and on to beat. It’s going to be a team that’s going to be unselfish. We’re going to play fast and smart in transition. We’re going to try to get easy baskets.

“We’re going to try to play with great body language. We’re going to be a team that respects the flag and the National Anthem. All those things from culture is what we’re about. It’s who we’re going to be.”

Davis was clearly alluding to the movement sparked two years ago by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Following Kaepernick’s example, dozens of NFL players have kneeled during the national anthem the past two seasons as a way of protesting racial inequality and police brutality.

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NBA, WNBA team demonstrations during the national anthem
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NBA, WNBA team demonstrations during the national anthem
Oct 4, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; The Atlanta Hawks lock arms during the national anthem before the game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 10, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets players stand with arms locked during the National Anthem before the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 3, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) locks arms with teammates during the national anthem before a game against the Brooklyn Nets at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
UNIONDALE, NY - OCTOBER 11: The Philadelphia 76ers stand for the National Anthem during their Pre Season game at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on October 11, 2017 in Uniondale, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 10: A close up shot of the Los Angeles Lakers standing for the National Anthem before a preseason game against the Utah Jazz on October 10, 2017 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - OCTOBER 6: The Utah Jazz honor the National Anthem before the game against the Phoenix Suns on October 6, 2017 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 30: (left to right) Andrew Bogut, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Brook Lopez and Stephen Zimmerman of Los Angeles Lakers lock arms during the national anthem before the start of the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on September 30, 2017 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 18: The Phoenix Mercury and the Washington Mystics stand for a moment of silence for the National Anthem before the game on August 18, 2017 at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 16: The Minnesota Lynx and the Seattle Storm stand for a moment of silence for the National Anthem before the game on August 16, 2017 at Key Arena in Seattle, Washington. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Joshua Huston/NBAE via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: The Phoenix Mercury stand and kneel for the national anthem before the game against the New York Liberty during Round Two of the 2016 WNBA Playoffs on September 24, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 21: The Indiana Fever kneel during the national anthem before the game against the Phoenix Mercury during Round One of the 2016 WNBA Playoffs on September 21, 2016 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 10: DeMar DeRozan #10, K.J. MacDaniels #32 and Malcolm Miller #13 of the Toronto Raptors interlock arms during the singing of the national anthems prior to the first half of an NBA preseason game against the Detroit Pistons at Air Canada Centre on October 10, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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What’s strange about Davis’ decision to reference it in his opening statement is there’s no history of athletes taking a knee during the national anthem either at Ole Miss specifically or across college basketball in general. Ole Miss did not immediately return a message from Yahoo Sports asking if Davis would be interested in speaking further about the subject.

Davis, a native of Leakesville, Mississippi, spent the past 16 years at Middle Tennessee, compiling a 332-188 overall record, capturing five league titles in the past seven seasons and winning first-round NCAA tournament games in 2016 and 2017. The 58-year-old was hired to replace longtime Rebels coach Andy Kennedy, who won 20 or more games nine times in 12 seasons but reached the NCAA tournament only twice.

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Jeff Eisenberg is a college basketball writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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