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SEC Commissioner calls for a change to the Mississippi State flag

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The flag of the State of Mississippi along High Street between the Mississippi State Capitol, Supreme Court and Walter Sillers State Office Building in Jackson, Mississippi. (Photo by Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States - Mississippi and American Flags, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68498465)

The Southeastern Conference is considering banning championship events in Mississippi until the state changes its flag, which includes a Confederate symbol.

Greg Sankey, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference made the announcement Thursday in a statement.

“It is past time for change to be made to the flag of the state of Mississippi,” Sankey wrote. “Our students deserve an opportunity to learn and compete in environments that are inclusive and welcoming to all.”

The two SEC schools in Mississippi are Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi, both of which have stopped flying the state flag.

MSU President Mark Keenum released a statement shortly after Sankey’s.

“Since 2015, our Student Association, Robert Holland Faculty Senate and university administration have been firmly on record in support of changing the state flag,” Keenum wrote. “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.”

Ole Miss Athletic Director Keith Carter and Chancellor Glenn Boyce also weighed in.

“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,” Boyce and Carter wrote in a joint statement. “In 2015, the university stopped flying the state flag over our campus. Mississippi needs a flag that represents the qualities about 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.”

In 2001, Mississippians voted to keep the current flag, but now, amidst nationwide protests over police brutality and other injustices, the topic of the the state flag has come to light again. During this year’s legislative session, Mississippi lawmakers proposed a bill that would remove the Confederate symbol from the flag, as they have done many times before. As with previous bills, it is unlikely that the bill will be brought up for a vote.

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