Mississippi college coaches all in on change

When it comes to the Mississippi state flag being on the right side of history is a very divisive topic, but one place everyone seems to agree is in between the lines.

Today, leaders across the board from college athletics made sure their voices were the loudest in the room.

“It’s time to see positive change and have that symbol of hatred removed.” The Confederate emblem is becoming so controversial in the wake of George Floyd’s death more than 50 athletic directors and coaches from the state’s eight public universities appearing at the Mississippi legislature to lobby for its removal from the state flag. Mississippi State Head Women’s Basketball Coach Nikki McCray-Penson said, “I know firsthand what it feels like to see a confederate flag and pretend it doesn’t have a racist, violent or oppressive overtone. It screams hate, and it hurts me to my core.”

Ole Miss Head Men’s Basketball Coach Kermit Davis said, “I had a meeting with our team the other day, and I could tell the hurtfulness in our locker room, a confusion in our locker room because they want change.”

Among those demanding change is Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill. The Columbus, MS native has played his entire football career in the Magnolia State, but the league’s top returning rusher says either the flag goes or he goes. First-year Head Coach Mike Leach is in his corner. “Why do you have a state flag to unify all the people in the state if your flag doesn’t do that? Change it. Does your flag bring business in the state or does it keep business out? Okay, if it doesn’t bring it in, change it. Does it draw athletes or people to the state? Or if it doesn’t, change it.”

Recruitment and unification aside, Mississippi’s current flag also puts the Big 3 at a financial disadvantage. The Southeastern Conference was the first to ban all championship events from the state of Mississippi until the flag is changed. The NCAA followed suit and so did Conference USA. “The ruling by the SEC and NCAA affects us greatly, and we can’t be an elite program without hosting postseason events.”

For Mississippi to be the nation’s only state unable to host NCAA baseball and softball regionals as well as first and second round games of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament would be a big step backwards in what’s supposed to be a march for forward progress.  “I have a daughter, Ally. She’s 32 years old. She has down syndrome, and Ally keeps us simplified and grounded all the time. And we were having this discussion at my house the other night. My wife and I and we were talking about social injustice and talking about the flag change. And Ally is sitting there, and she just looks at us and she says, Dad, do unto others as you would like for them to do to you. I said boy, that’s simple. But isn’t that perfect? I said that’s simple, but it’s perfect. Whether you’re talking about a flag change that’s good for everybody in our state, or we’re talking about any topic of social injustice.”

According to the Clarion Ledger, a change will require a two-thirds vote from the legislature which is in session until Friday.

Mississippi residents last voted to keep the flag back in 2001.

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