The NCAA’s Southeastern Conference is getting involved in the current political climate by calling on the state of Mississippi to change its state flag, which features a Confederate emblem.
What We Know:
- Mississippi has the largest percentage of Black Americans in the country but is the last state to display the confederate emblem on its state flag.
- On Thursday, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey issued a statement asking the state to change its flag, and if it doesn’t, it may not be allowed to host any SEC championship events in the future. “It is past time for change to be made to the flag. Our students deserve an opportunity to learn and compete in environments that are inclusive and welcoming to all,” the statement said.
Statement from @SEC Commissioner @GregSankey on State of Mississippi flag pic.twitter.com/BR5Ei1l17X
— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) June 18, 2020
- The league’s most prominent and lucrative championships, men’s basketball, football, and baseball, are currently held outside of Mississippi, but the state is still eligible to host some of the title games whose locations rotate. Sankey threatened that their host eligibility will be revoked if the state flag stays, hoping the potential loss will sway lawmakers in Mississippi to make the change.
- The call for action received support from the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University, both of which are in the SEC. In a joint statement released by the Ole Miss athletics’ Twitter, University of Mississippi Chancellor Glenn Boyce and athletics Vice-Chancellor Keith Carter said, “Mississippi needs a flag that represents the qualities about our state that unite us, not those that still divide us. We support the SEC’s position for changing the Mississippi state flag to an image that is more welcoming and inclusive for all people.”
A message from Chancellor Glenn Boyce and Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Keith Carter. pic.twitter.com/gqJxxj6ca6
— Ole Miss Athletics (@OleMissSports) June 19, 2020
- In 2015, both the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State stopped flying the state flag on their campus. Mississippi State President Mark Keenum said that the student association and university administration have supported changing the flag since then. “On June 12, I wrote to the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the Mississippi House reaffirming that support,” Keenum said. “The letter said, in part, that our flag should be unifying, not a symbol that divides us. I emphasized that it is time for a renewed, respectful debate on this issue”.
- Mississippi state legislators faced pressure in recent weeks to remove the Confederate emblem as the fight for racial justice in the wake of George Floyd‘s death has led to a resurgence in demands to remove dedications to the Confederacy. A bipartisan group of state lawmakers met last week to begin drafting legislation to change the state flag. This is the first time the state flag has been discussed seriously since 2001 where a referendum found that Mississippi voters overwhelmingly endorsed keeping the flag, with nearly two-thirds of ballots cast in support of retaining it.
- The University of Mississippi, nicknamed “Ole Miss”, has struggled with arguments over symbols representing the Confederacy and the Old South. This has led to bans of the school’s battle flag and the song “Dixie” as well as the elimination of the “Colonel Rebel” mascot.
- The announcement from Sankey came hours after a state board approved the University of Mississippi’s plan to relocate a Confederate monument on its campus in Oxford. It also follows an announcement from the University of Florida, declaring it would stop promoting its “Gator Bait” chant at athletic events as there was “horrific historic racist imagery associated with the phrase”.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said Thursday that he would consider proposals to change the flag, but he did not endorse any, one single idea. “I’m certainly open to having any conversations. But I believe very strongly that if we’re going to change the flag, the people of Mississippi should be the ones who make that decision.”