Supreme Court Declines to Hear Confederate Flag-Waving Appeal
A legal effort to resurrect the waving of Confederate battle flags at college football games in Mississippi died earlier this month in the Supreme Court.
The court declined to take the appeal of a flag-carrying spectator who had been asked to leave a University of Mississippi football game in 1999.
The college, also known as Ole Miss, banned flags with sticks from athletic events in 1997. Before that, football fans often waved small Confederate flags, sang along to the fight song “Dixie” and cheered with mascot Colonel Rebel, outfitted like an old Southern gentleman.
At the time, the team’s football coach complained that the flag hurt recruitment of Black athletes. The university had hired a New York public relations firm to help reform its image.
In banning all flagsticks and pointed objects, the school cited spectator safety.
“Fifty years of enthusiastic flag-waving experience have proven stick flags harmless,” Jimmy Giles, who sued the college, told the Supreme Court. “While the university’s pretext is slick and clever . . . it nonetheless is unconstitutional because its intent and consequence is to suppress free speech.”
The state university dissociated itself from the battle flag in 1983, but spectators still brought flags to games. Under the ban that started in November 1997, police can confiscate flags or ask fans who bring them to leave.
Giles sued Ole Miss after he was approached by police while waving a flag at a 1999 game. He left instead of having his flag confiscated. Under the policy, people can take flags or signs into the football stadium, but not on sticks.
University of Mississippi chancellor Robert C. Khayat describes the decision as “anticlimactic.”
“We were always confident the courts would uphold our action, and every court that has considered the case has done so. The debate over the Confederate flag at the University of Mississippi was resolved five years ago, and we have moved on to more important matters,” says Khayat.
Giles’ case had been dismissed in a lower court, and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal.
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