"Black, brown, blue – it doesn't matter. We love all you."
Those were the words of Mississippi State senior defensive end Kobe Jones on Thursday evening as the Bulldogs departed from the Starkville Unity Park near Main Street.
Jones and his teammates were originally scheduled to be at football practice at the time. Instead, the team joined the likes of several other college programs and professional squads around the nation in calling off practice or games in order to protest social justice issues. Such matters are again at the forefront of America in the wake of the shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake, a Black man in Wisconsin, by a police officer.
Sources confirmed to Sports Illustrated's Cowbell Corner on Thursday afternoon that the Bulldogs would not practice. Around the same time, multiple Mississippi State players were taking to Twitter, posting messages of frustration and unity.
By 5:30 p.m. local time, most of the team had gathered in downtown Starkville at the Unity Park – a place created to honor those who have contributed to civil rights in Oktibbeha County. The park features photos of the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evars and others.
On Thursday, right in front of those photos, stood others hoping to influence change in the forms of Bulldog football players. They included Jones – a Starkville native – serving as the defacto leader of the group, and running back Kylin Hill, who just two months prior gained national headlines for threatening to not play football in 2020 if Mississippi didn't remove its then-state flag that included the Confederate battle emblem. The flag that had flown since 1894 was taken down just days later.
Hill again took a stand on Thursday, along with his teammates. The Bulldogs gathered together as a group and took photos with several players placing their right fists in the air.
Soon after, the players huddled together, then dispersed following a brief message from Jones that included his closing message of unity.
On Thursday night, Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach took to Twitter to voice his support for his team.
"I am proud to be the Head Football Coach at Mississippi State," Leach posted. "I applaud our players for expressing some of their fears and anxieties today. I support them and look forward to working with them tomorrow, to use football to elevate us and the people around us. Hail State!"
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