Fans arriving Sunday for second-round NCAA Tournament games in Greenville, S.C., were surprised to see a controversial image from the past— a huge Confederate flag flying prominently atop a parking deck next to the arena.
According to an Associated Press report, a group of protesters raised theflag from the back of a pickup truck atop the deck next toBon Secours Wellness Arena. The facility is hostingtwo games Sunday,North Carolina versus Arkansas, followed by Duke against South Carolina.
The protesters told the AP they "wanted to make their presence known" to the NCAA. The sanctioning body had banned South Carolina from hosting championship events from 2002 to 2015 because South Carolina still flew the Confederate flag at the state capitol. State officials voted to remove the flag from the capitol grounds in 2015, leading the NCAA to lift the championship ban.
The sight of the flag flying so prominently near the arena caught many people by surprise.
Solid work, South Carolina. Literally waving over the arena. pic.twitter.com/ozphmhergW— Luke DeCock (@LukeDeCock) March 19, 2017
Did they think there was some kind of confusion about S.C. running out of Confederate Flag flying fools? https://t.co/JX5KjRZCo9— David Gardner (@byDavidGardner) March 19, 2017
Later, other protesters arrived to wave Confederate flags at street level.
People are waving confederate flags outside the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville ahead of tonight's NCAA Tournament games pic.twitter.com/DTML4TShyQ— David Hurst (@DHurstWNCN) March 19, 2017
NCAAsenior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt quicklyissued a statement about the presence of the flags.
"The NCAA is proud and excited to host championships in the state of South Carolina once again," Gavitt said."We are committed to assuring that our events are safe and accessible to all. No symbols that compromise that commitment will be permitted to be displayed on venue property that the tournament controls. Freedom of speech activities on public property in areas surrounding the arena are managed by the city of Greenville and we are supportive of the city's efforts."