Mississippi in line to regain NCAA title events after flag ban

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

The state of Mississippi is line to regain NCAA championship events after legislators there voted to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag.

The sports industry had played a central role in pressuring leaders in the state to retire the flag, with the move also coming amid a heightened nationwide reckoning on racial injustice. The Southeastern Conference earlier this month threatened to not place any of its championship events in Mississippi until the flag – widely viewed as a symbol of racism, oppression, and slavery – was changed.

The NCAA then followed suit, expanding its policy to ban all of its championship events from being held in states where the Confederate flag is flown, regardless of whether those site decisions are predetermined or based on competitive seeding. Mississippi’s House and Senate each voted in bipartisan fashion June 28 to retire the existing flag, and state Governor Tate Reeves said he will sign the bill.

“We are pleased the Mississippi legislature has acted swiftly to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag, and we look forward to Governor Reeves signing this bill,” said Mark Emmert, NCAA president. “It has too long served as a symbol of oppression, racism, and injustice. We welcome this important move by state lawmakers to remove the symbol from prominence in the state, which will also open the opportunity to host NCAA championships after the recently expanded championship policy.”

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey also applauded the vote. 

“The agreement to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the flag is a positive and appropriate action, and I applaud the Mississippi House of Representative for today’s action. I am also grateful for Governor Reeves’ openness to sign a bill to change the flag. As I have frequently aid, our students deserve the opportunity to learn and compete in welcoming environments. Today’s action is welcomed in the spirit of this goal.”

Nascar earlier this month also banned the Confederate flag, in part at the prompting of Bubba Wallace, the lone African-American driver on the elite Cup Series. That sport, however, has since struggled with widespread incidences of fans displaying the flag outside of its tracks.

Mississippi was the only US state to still have a flag featuring the emblem of the Confederacy.