Forty-six coaches and athletic directors from across the state traveled to Jackson on Thursday to lobby for the changing of the state flag.
All eight of Mississippi’s public universities were represented at a press conference.
That includes Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Southern Miss, Delta State, Alcorn State, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State and the Mississippi University of Women. The reason for the press conference was to urge e state government to remove the confederate battle symbol from the state flag.
This followed the NCAA, SEC, and C-USA’s rulings last week which stated that no conference championships and no postseason events would be held in Mississippi until the state flag is changed.
That policy, called the Confederate flag policy, would exclude the state’s baseball and softball programs - Ole Miss, MSU and USM - from hosting NCAA regional or super regional games. It would also keep first- and second-round NCAA women’s basketball playoff games from being played in the state.
Mississippi State starting running back Kylin Hill also stated earlier in the week that he would not represent the state until the flag is changed, and former Ole Miss basketball player Blake Hinson, who recently transferred, said he was glad to not represent the flag anymore and not to be associated with anything representing the Confederacy.
While 13 representatives from Ole Miss and Mississippi State traveled to Jackson, Ole Miss men’s basketball coach Kermit Davis and Mississippi State women’s basketball coach Nikki McCray-Penson each gave statements and answered questions.
Davis spoke first and said the coaches are there to create change for the flag. He said his basketball players are hurt, and they want change. He said he believes that everyone would agree that everyone wants a state with great pride and a state that flourishes in economy, business and education, and that starts with changing the flag.
“Mississippi needs to have a flag that is great for all the citizens in our state,” Davis said. “Mississippi needs to have a flag that is right for all of our students in-state and all of our out-of-state students and student athletes that come on our campus.”
McCray-Penson followed Davis with a statement of her own, saying she knows first-hand what it feels like to see a Confederate flag and pretend that it does not have racist, violent, or oppressive overtones.
She said the flag screams hate and hurts her to her core and that students don’t just commit to competing and representing the university, they commit to compete and represent for the entire state.
“Mississippi State University’s mission of diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity is hampered by this symbol of hatred,” McCray-Penson said.
Speaker of the House Philip Gunn followed and said the entire state, including athletic leaders, religious leaders, and citizens are all screaming for change. He said the actions by the NCAA and SEC have brought a quantifiable hurt to the state.
He said that ruling is hurting the state financially while it hurts the university from recruiting not only student-athletes, but students in general.
“This is an issue that needs to be resolved and resolved quickly,” Gunn said. “The longer it goes, the more it festers and the harder it is going to be later on. The image of our state is at stake here, ladies and gentleman. The nation is watching. They want to know what we as a state stand for.”
“This is bigger than just athletics. This is about the image of the state of Mississippi and what are we going to stand for. How are we going to be viewed by the people across this world? And now is the time. We have an opportunity here to make history.”