Pressure from NCAA athletes and officials helped spur Mississippi to change its state flag.
CNN reported Sunday that the Mississippi state legislature passed House Bill 1796, removing the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag as long as Mississippi governor Tate Reeves follows through on his Saturday statement that he would sign the bill into law.
The bill passed by a 91-23 vote in the state House of Representatives and a 37-14 vote in the state Senate. The flag has been garnering negative attention all month, particularly in a Mississippi college sports community that no longer wanted the Confederate emblem representing their state.
The changes to the flag are a direct result of the calls for racial and social justice since George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police May 25.
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Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey wrote June 18, “It is past time for change to be made to the flag of the State of Mississippi. Our students deserve an opportunity to learn and compete in environments that are inclusive and welcoming to all. 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 state flag is changed.”
The NCAA and Conference USA followed with similar statements, saying they won’t bring events to Mississippi unless things change. WLBT, an NBC affiliate in Jackson, Miss., reported Thursday that athletic directors and coaches from eight Mississippi public universities held a joint press conference against the state flag.
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Mississippi State University running back Kylin Hill brought it to an individual level, tweeting June 22, “Either change the flag or I won’t be representing this State anymore.” After the bill passed, Hill tweeted Sunday “Big salute to EVERY university in this State that helped.”
WLBT compiled reactions from a number of Mississippi sports leaders, including Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen tweeting, “We are proud of all who took a stand, came together to support a change and seized the opportunity to be on the right side of history. … Our state needs and deserves a flag that unites all Mississippians,” Ole Miss vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics Keith Carter tweeting, “This is a great day to be a Mississippian. I am proud of all who have had a part in this momentous decision for our state, including the leaders on our own campus that fought hard for what was right,” and Sankey tweeting “I am proud of our universities’ leadership, and the engagement of student-athletes and coaches in the efforts to change the State of Mississippi flag. The agreement to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the flag is a positive and appropriate action.”
The Mississippi flag, which was adopted in 1894, was the final state flag with Confederate symbolism The bill also established a commission to develop a new flag design, which would go to a statewide vote in November.