On Sunday, legislators in Mississippi passed a bill to change the official state flag, eliminating the Confederate flag as a symbol of the state.
NCAA President Mark Emmert released a statement following the decision:
“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. It has too long served as a symbol of oppression, racism and justice. 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 recent expanded championship policy.”
College athletics ultimately put significant pressure on the state and was a major contributor to this change. The pressure began when SEC commissioner Greg Sankey issued a statement earlier in June stating that the conference would not hold any championship events in Mississippi until the flag was changed.
The NCAA backed the conference and raised the ante by refusing to hold championship events in any state with flags that showcased the Confederate battle emblem.
The dispute reached its peak on June 22 when Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill tweeted that he would not represent the state until the flag was changed. Hill is considered the SEC’s top returning running back this season and was immediately supported by a number of his teammates.
Ultimately, the SEC’s efforts were successful as coaches from around the state including Mississippi State’s Mike Leach and Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin lobbied legislators at the state’s capitol late last week and prompted the historic decision.
"This is a great day to be a Mississippian," Ole Miss athletic director Keith Carter said. "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 is right. While there is still much work to be done, this is a big step in achieving the welcoming and inclusive environment that our state needs and every person deserves."
Because of this change, as Emmert referenced in his statement, Mississippi is now a viable contender to host championship events again.
The bill passed in the state’s House of Representatives and Senate and is on its way to Governor Tate Reeves, who said he will sign the bill if it made it to his office. In addition, a commission will be created to approve the new design this fall –– a design that will reportedly include the phrase “In God We Trust,” according to the Associated Press.