Pressure continues to grow on the state of Mississippi, as Conference USA has joined both the Southeastern Conference and the NCAA in announcing it will not host championship events in the state until it changes its flag.
The state flag of Mississippi features an emblem that resembles the Confederate battle flag. Mississippi is the only state in the country whose flag still bears such symbolism, according to the Clarion Ledger.
Conference USA’s move — which was announced on Monday — comes on the heels of similar announcements made by the SEC and NCAA last week.
On Thursday, the SEC released a statement from commissioner Greg Sankey calling on the state to change its flag.
“In the event that there is no change, there will be consideration of precluding Southeastern Conference championship events from being conducted in the State of Mississippi until the state flag is changed,” the statement reads in part.
Statement from @SEC Commissioner @GregSankey on State of Mississippi flag pic.twitter.com/BR5Ei1l17X— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) June 18, 2020
The NCAA followed suit on Friday, announcing it had extended its ban on hosting championship events in states where the flag is flown to include events that are awarded based on competition.
“We must do all we can to ensure that NCAA actions reflect our commitment to inclusion and support all our student-athletes,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement announcing the move. “There can be no place within college sports where any student-athlete is demeaned or unwelcome.”
Conference USA’s latest action could impact the University of Southern Mississippi baseball program, which has hosted the conference’s baseball tournament every year from 2014 to 2019, as well as in 2009, 2012 and 2013.
Statement on Conference USA Championship events in the state of Mississippi: pic.twitter.com/KSu4OLvPNc— Conference USA (@ConferenceUSA) June 22, 2020
Meanwhile, athletics officials at local universities are taking note. Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen spoke with The Dispatch about the recent action, telling the newspaper that what happens is up to state legislators.
"I mean this is no longer in our hands," he said. "And again, that's one of the things that bothers you is hosting used to be in the hands of the student-athletes and the coaches and their staff. Now it's in somebody else's hands."