Barnett gave his famous fifteen-word “I Love Mississippi” speech at the University of Mississippi football game in Jackson. Ole Miss Rebels were playing Kentucky Wildcats. 41,000 fans cheered at the stadium waving thousands of Confederate flags. At halftime, a gigantic Confederate flag was unveiled on the field. The crowd shouted “We want Ross”! Barnett went to the field, grabbed the microphone at the 50-yard line and said:
“I love Mississippi! I love her people! Our customs. I love and respect our heritage.”
The crowd went wild. This occurred the night before the riots at Ole Miss’ Oxford campus over the admission of Meredith to the university.
The following year, he also actively tried to prevent the Mississippi State University basketball team from playing an NCAA Tournament game against the racially integrated team from Loyola of Chicago. The team defied Barnett by sneaking out of the state and playing the game, which they lost to the eventual national champions.