College football got a boost on Saturday with the return of the Southeastern Conference and a slate of exciting matchups to go along with it.
The SEC’s two early games featured three teams ranked in the top 25: Florida, Kentucky and Auburn.
While the game between Kentucky and Auburn was more competitive, it was the Florida-Ole Miss contest that garnered more attention before a single snap was played.
That’s because, similar to what other sports leagues like the NFL and NBA have opted to do, the coaches and players of Florida and Ole Miss decided on what ESPN called a “showing of unity” by kneeling before kickoff.
Take a look:
A showing of unity ❤️
Players and coaches on both teams took a knee ahead of Florida vs. Ole Miss. pic.twitter.com/cKqCJkorpy
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 26, 2020
The clip also shows Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney raising his fist.
The Gators and Rebels’ “showing of unity” certainly echoes the displays exhibited by some of their professional counterparts, but there is one catch worth noting — the Florida and Ole Miss players and coaches did not kneel during the national anthem. (“College football players customarily remain in the locker room during the song,” according to the Mississippi Clarion Ledger.)
While the social justice sentiments are likely similar, not kneeling for the anthem itself is still a stark difference between how the college athletes demonstrated and how the professional athletes demonstrated.
Even given that significant difference, the overwhelming response on social media seemed to be negative:
Keep politics out of football pls. I just want to escape for one day!!
— WickedAfterlife (@WAServers) September 26, 2020
I just turned on college…both teams in SEc taking a knee for social injustice. I’m taking my knee and turning it off. They used their platform and I’m using mine.
Boycott college football …added to my list…NCAA , NFL, MLB,NHL, NBA..ratings all down.
— BTO (@toverdrive_m) September 26, 2020
🤦🏻♂️ bet the cops that work the game security feel great about this political scam. Enough already.
— Zach Primavera (@z_preams) September 26, 2020
That’s why I won’t be watching
— Martin M (@Gonagen1) September 26, 2020
Despite the negative response and, in the NFL’s case, a hit to the ratings, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight when it comes to these social justice demonstrations.
Given the riotous social unrest in America currently, that’s not a particularly huge surprise.
Unfortunately for college football fans hoping for a reprieve from the constant reminders about said social unrest, this particular game didn’t give it to them.
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