The NCAA vs. A Confederate Flag
Wednesday - August 09, 2006
As if it didn’t already have enough to worry about, the NCAA is looking into banning baseball and football teams from hosting post-season tournaments in South Carolina because of the state’s refusal to remove the Confederate Flag from statehouse grounds. Basketball regionals and cross country events had been earlier banned.
The Rev. Joseph Darby, vice president of the Charleston NAACP, has said in reports that it is correct for the Bowl Championship Series and the NCAA to consider the matter because of the number of African Americans in college sports. Many believe the Confederate flag, flown throughout the South as a supposed historical and cultural symbol, in fact represents slavery, racism and oppression.
With all due respect to the good reverend, he’s wrong. The focus, however well intended, is mis-directed.
The NCAA has no business sticking its nose into the issue of state’s rights. No matter how jackass the decision, if the people of South Carolina want to fly the flag of a short-lived, unrecognized, racist state then that is their prerogative.
The Big Brother of intercollegiate athletics is not breaking any new ground. In 1991 the NFL paved the way by pulling the Super Bowl from the new home of the Cardinals because Arizona at the time did not recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a state holiday. The NCAA got involved nine years later when it began an economic boycott of South Carolina because the Confederate flag was being flown from the capitol dome. The flag was moved a short time later to a Confederate monument on state grounds, where it remains, and in 2001 the NCAA announced a two-year moratorium on awarding post-season events. That ban continues.
As surprising as it may seem that South Carolina would embrace the legacy of a nation that went to war to keep people in bondage, they are not alone. Texas celebrates Confederate Heroes Day on the birthday of Robert E. Lee, Alabama celebrates Lee’s birthday by itself, and Confederate Memorial Day is recognized in every former Confederate state except Missouri. It just seems that South Carolina has been ground zero for the debate.
In 2000, the state became the last member of the union to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a paid holiday for all state employees. Like all political action, a compromise was in order. Supporters got their holiday and detractors got the right to honor the death of Gen. Stonewall Jackson and the capture of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
The Rev. Darby is correct about one thing. The issue is about respect.
The State of South Carolina, and other like-minded areas, needs to respect the legacy of those who suffered under that flag by retiring it as a symbol.
If pressure needs to be applied in South Carolina, it has to come from a place that really matters - South Carolina. In an area where college football is king, there would no better engine of change than to have Steve Spurrier, his staff and players lead the way by saying enough is enough. A march across the campus or a signed petition by everyone involved with the team could be enough to bury the issue.
And if the NCAA insists on getting involved in social issues, its time would be better spent trying to open opportunities for minorities and women into position of authority in coaching and administration
South Carolina won’t listen to a bunch of Yankee carpet baggers. It will only listen to one of its own, if only someone is brave enough to show them the way.
The NCAA couldn’t lead a sailor to a brothel.
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