Mississippi State, Ole Miss support SEC pressure for a new state flag: 'It is past time for change'

Sporting News

Almost 20 years after the people of Mississippi voted to keep its state flag featuring the Confederate symbol, Mississippi legislators are proposing another bill that would remove the stars and bars from the upper corner of the banner.

And in order for the state to host future Southeastern Conference championships, as it last did in 2016 with the SEC softball tournament, it will need to pass.

"It is past time for change to be made to the flag of the State of Mississippi," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a recent statement. "Our students deserve an opportunity to learn and compete in environments that are inclusive and welcoming to all.

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"In the event there is no change, there will be consideration of precluding Southeastern Conference championship events from being conducted in the State of Mississippi until the flag is changed."

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The NCAA has banned postseason events in Mississippi for the same reason.

The SEC's two schools in the state, Mississippi State and the University of Mississippi, have not displayed the flag since 2016. Both released statements of support in the wake of Sankey's threat to keep conference championships out of the state until its flag is changed.

From Mississippi State president Mark Keenum:

"Clearly, the current national climate is such that this debate may produce unintended consequences for our student athletes here at Mississippi State University and those at the University of Mississippi. Since 2015, our Student Association, Robert Holland Faculty Senate and university administration have been firmly on record in support of changing the state flag. I have reiterated that view to our state's leaders on multiple occasions, including during face-to-face discussions in recent days and hours.

"On June 12, I wrote to the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the Mississippi House reaffirming that support. 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."

From Ole Miss chancellor Glenn Boyce and athletic director Keith Carter in a joint statement:

"The University of Mississippi community concluded years ago that the Confederate battle flag did not represent many of our core values, such as civility and respect for others. In 2016, the university stopped flying the state flag over our campus. Mississippi needs a flag that represents the qualities of 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."

According to WAPT in Jackson, Miss., the legislature that would change the state's flag is in danger of not making it past committee. State Sen. Derrick Simmons, who filed the resolution, did say he is hopeful the flag will eventually change.

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