SEC to Mississippi: Change Confederate-themed flag or risk losing college sports events

The NCAA's Southeastern Conference commissioner warned that Mississippi could lose SEC championship games if it doesn't alter the state flag..
Image: state flag, LSU v Mississippi
A game attendee waves a Mississippi state flag during a game between the Mississippi Rebels and the LSU Tigers at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi on Oct. 21, 2017.Jonathan Bachman / Getty Images file

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By Dennis Romero

The NCAA's Southeastern Conference on Thursday told the state of Mississippi it could miss out on SEC championship games if it doesn't change its state flag, which includes a Confederate symbol.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement, "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," he said. "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."

The call for change received support from the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University, both members of the SEC.

"Mississippi needs a flag that represents the qualities about our state that unite us, not those that still divide us," said University of Mississippi Chancellor Glenn Boyce and athletics Vice Chancellor Keith Carter in a joint statement.

Mississippi State President Mark E. Keenum said he wrote to the state's top leaders on Friday urging them to change the flag.

"Since 2015, our Student Association, Robert Holland Faculty Senate and university administration have been firmly on record in support of changing the state flag," he said in a statement. "I have reiterated that view to our state's leaders on multiple occasions, including during face-to-face discussions in recent days and hours."

The state has been under pressure to change the flag for years, but the demands have ramped up in the wake of the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody and the wide-ranging calls for an end to systemic racism that have followed.

That focus on racial justice has fueled a resurgence in demands to take down monuments and dedications to the Confederacy and its generals, who fought to preserve slavery during the Civil War under the Confederate symbol that is prominently featured on the Mississippi flag.

There's currently a bipartisan proposal in the state legislature to remove the Confederate portion of the flag.