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OPINION: The Ole Miss Family knows no limits

“This is my hometown, not their town.”  

“A lot of them aren’t from Oxford, they can go home! LEAVE!!” 

“They need to stay quiet and play football.” 

These are just a few of the more than 200 Facebook comments left on a recent story about Ole Miss football players releasing a video and hosting a Saturday rally to advocate for the removal of the Confederate monument on the Square. 

Scrolling through the comments section, there are people many would be ashamed to include in the Ole Miss fan base. 

As graduates and fans alike, we often talk about the “Ole Miss Family.” We look out for each other – whether it’s inviting a stranger to your Grove tent for some shade on game day, or helping a student pay for books or tuition when they’re hit with hard times.  

It is a family, and like a family, we look out for each other and love each other, no matter what. The Ole Miss family doesn’t exist only when we all get along – it’s a constant, and it’s for life.  

And right now, vital members of that family are hurting, and they’re being told, “We don’t want you here.”  

One of the more malformed arguments from those against the football players speaking out is, “If they leave, Oxford will be like it was before the students invaded.” Oxford as we know it today, with all its entertainment and innovation and vibrancy, would not exist without the revenue brought in by Ole Miss Athletics, chiefly its football program. 

From 2010 to 2017 (the most recent year data was available), travelers’ spending in Oxford increased from about $85 million in fiscal year 2010, to about $174 million in fiscal year 2017, according to the Travel and Tourism Economic Contribution Report by the Mississippi Development Authority. The 2017 total is an increase from $153 million in 2016. This spending has a “noticeable spike” during football season, according to a report from the University. 

UM also stated that those funds are reinvested in efforts to bolster tourism in the city, provide security and equip law enforcement officers to handle large crowds. The funds have also been used for recreation facilities, such as mTrade Park, which bring in tourism dollars by hosting state and regional tournaments.  

And yet… There are people in the LOU Community and beyond who genuinely seem to believe we’d be better off without the young men who draw crowds to our town for seven weekends every year. 

It seems many in our community love the football team when they’re on the field, performing for the masses. They have no problem cheering for them or encouraging them to do their best. However, when these same players decide to use the platform they’ve been given to initiate conversation and spark social change, a portion of the fan base loses their minds.  

There are others still who say things like, “Removing statues and changing the state flag won’t fix anything – it’s a heart problem.”  

We do have a heart problem in our community. That much is apparent, evidenced by those who spew hatred at people advocating for positive change.  

To the players speaking out for positive change, we see you, we hear you and we embrace you for what you are: much-loved members of the Ole Miss family. 

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