Saying 2020 has been a hell of a year would be an understatement. Only halfway through, basketball legend Kobe Bryant has passed, there is an ongoing global pandemic and this country’s racial roots has reared its ugly head again when white Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd. Floyd’s murder put the country on notice that the fight for racial injustice in this country is far from over. The incident shed a light on the relationship between Black americans and the very department employed to protect them: the police. As a result of this tragedy and the social unrest that it has caused, colleges are now being forced to take a stance to choose between old tradition and new-age symbolism. At the forefront of this conversation, is the state of Mississippi.
Kylin Hill vs. the State of Mississippi
Infamous for its’ racist roots and outdated state policies, Mississippi is a place that still has the symbol of the confederacy on its state flag. Only now has the state had its feet put to the fire. Social unrest has encouraged collegiate athletes that attend schools with racist backgrounds to call for change and the first to step forward is Mississippi State’s star running back, Kylin Hill. In a tweet on June 22nd, Hill expressed his thoughts regarding the state’s flag:
Either change the flag or I won’t be representing this State anymore 💯 & I meant that .. I’m tired https://t.co/IzizpWLoIg
— Kylin Hill (@H_Kylin) June 22, 2020
Mississippi State’s Student Association, soon after, tweeted soon an official statement encouraging the state’s lawmakers to make a change to the flag:
In an effort to change the Mississippi state flag, the MSU SA Executive board has collectively come up with a statement that encourages our lawmakers to make a change. This letter will be sent to Governor Reeves, Lieutenant Governor Hosemann, and Speaker of the House, Gunn. pic.twitter.com/t5Xqun3PZc
— MSU Student Association (@MSU_SA) June 23, 2020
Did someone say the NCAA?
But even beating Hill and MSU’s Student Association to the punch, is the very organization that the school plays under. On June 19th, The NCAA banned all college athletic events from being hosted in the state until changes to the flag are made. The NCAA had previously banned postseason play “in states that the confederate flag still has prominence” in 2001, but “teams with performances that earned them a significantly high seeding or ranking” were excused from the rule. Even with the new law in place, the state voters overwhelmingly choose to keep the flag as it is.
Regionals for Baseball and Softball, Women’s Basketball, Tennis, Golf, Volleyball and Track and Field will be under the 2020 restrictions. The SEC and Conference USA have backed the NCAA, each having at least one school in Mississippi. Jackson State, Alcorn State, and Mississippi Valley State — Mississippi’s HBCUs under the NCAA also fall under these restrictions. In 2019, the state held multiple tournament and championship games including some NCAA March Madness games for the top ranked Mississippi State Women’s basketball team and the SWAC Championship game. Also stepping up to the plate is the MACC or the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges, tweeting that they stand with changing the flag stating, “We believe now is the time for change to occur.”
The time for change
On June 25th, Ole Miss and Mississippi State coaches Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach were a part of a contingent asking the Mississippi legislature to change the confederate symbol on the state’s flag. Kiffin, who was hired by the Rebels in December, said the school had removed itself from the flag and its symbolism five years prior and told ESPN the school wanted to “ensure a more welcoming environment for everyone.”
Leach and Kiffin were two of the 46 administrators and coaches from eight public universities in the state that included Ole Miss and Mississippi State Men and Women’s Head basketball coaches and the schools’ administrators. Leach, who was hired in January, said the purpose of the flag is to “create great energy to elevate the economy, education and athletics. The current flag doesn’t do that. We need a state flag that everyone is proud of.”
On June 28th in historic fashion the state of Mississippi voted to change the confederate battle symbol 126 years after its adoption. The House and Senate voted to immediately remove the state flag. The new design, for voters to approve or reject, will be on the November 2020 ballot.
It’s hard when people get on social media everyday and say tweeting and protesting do not change anything. Mississippi changed its state’s flag in response to outrage over the racial injustice this country has dealt with for hundreds of years. All sparked by a simple tweet from a collegiate athlete. Some call it pandering, but if change starts with taking down openly racist propaganda, I say Mississippi will leave itself on the right side of history.