NCAA President Mark Emmert said the organizing body would once again be open to having championships in Mississippi after state legislators passed a bill to remove the Confederate emblem from the state flag.
Emmert released the following statement:
"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 injustice. 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 recently expanded championship policy."
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Saturday he would sign the bill to remove the Confederate emblem:
On June 19, the NCAA extended its policy of not allowing states that had Confederate iconography on their flags to host championship events, per Alex Scarborough of ESPN. The rule only applied to Mississippi after South Carolina ceased to fly the Confederate flag at its statehouse in 2015, following the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston.
The NCAA originally instituted the rule in 2001, though it only applied to "predetermined championship sites," per Scarborough.
College athletics played a major role in getting the flag changed. Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill said he would never play for the school again if it wasn't changed:
A number of players, coaches and university administrators also publicly supported changing the flag, and SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey threatened not to hold any conference championships in the state unless the change was made:
"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."
College sports—especially football—are big business and cultural touchstones in the South, Mississippi included. There's little doubt that prominent members from the college athletics world coming out against the flag played a major role in getting it changed. And now, the state may be able to host NCAA championships in the future.