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SEC Considers Withholding Title Games from Mississippi Without Changes to Flag

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2020

FILE - In this March 11, 2020, file photo, Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey speaks in Nashville, Tenn. Southeastern Conference schools will be able to bring football and basketball players back to campus for voluntary activities starting June 8 at the discretion of each university. The SEC’s announcement Friday, May 22, 2020, is the latest sign of encouragement that a college football season in at least some form can go on this fall.(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey announced the conference will consider not holding championship events in Mississippi, where Mississippi State and Ole Miss are located, unless the state changes its flag:

"It is past time for change to be made to the flag of the State of Mississippi. Our students deserve an opportunity to learn and compete in environments that are inclusive and welcoming to all.  

"In the event there is no change, there will be consideration of precluding Southeastern Conference championship events from being conducted in the State of Mississippi until the flag is changed."

"I have great respect for Commissioner Greg Sankey, and I understand why he has taken this position regarding Mississippi's state flag," Mississippi State President Mark Keenum said, per Danny P. Smith of the Starkville Daily News.

John Cohen @JohnCohenAD

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Ole Miss Athletics @OleMissSports

A message from Chancellor Glenn Boyce and Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Keith Carter. https://t.co/gqJxxj6ca6

Kate Smith of CBS News noted the Mississippi state flag is the last remaining one to display the Confederate battle emblem as part of its own design. Smith reported a bipartisan group of lawmakers started drafting legislation to change it last week.

What's more, an online petition calling to change the flag's design has received more than 142,000 signatures as of Thursday evening.

This is another potential move that would allow the SEC to move away from racist symbols and connections as much of the national conversation has centered on systemic racism and police brutality following the May 25 killing of George Floyd, which has sparked worldwide protests.

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University of Florida President Kent Fuchs announced fans will no longer participate in the "Gator Bait" cheer that has become tradition, per Andrea Adelson of ESPN. Adelson cited the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University and noted the history behind that phrase and "alligator bait," which was also used as a racial slur. 

Elsewhere, the University of Georgia Redcoat Band announced it will no longer play "Tara's Theme" at games. The song is used in Gone With the Wind, which takes place in the antebellum South.

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