NCAA Confederate Flag Ban Could Be Extended

COLUMBIA, S.C.

The NCAA will look into expanding its ban of championship events in South Carolina, possibly disallowing baseball and football teams from hosting postseason games because the Confederate flag is displayed on Statehouse grounds.

Robert Vowels Jr., the head of the NCAA’s Minority Opportunities and Interest Committee, says his group received a request from the Black Coaches Association to expand the ban, which currently prevents predetermined postseason events — like basketball regionals and cross-country championships — from being awarded to South Carolina sites.

“I think it’s something worth looking at,” says Vowels, who is also commissioner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

The NAACP started an economic boycott of South Carolina in 2000 because the Confederate flag flew over the Capitol dome. The Legislature voted that spring to move the flag to the Confederate monument in front of the Statehouse. However, the NAACP has continued its boycott, saying the legislative action did not go far enough.

In 2001, the NCAA announced a two-year moratorium on awarding predetermined postseason events to the state. The governing body has continued the ban indefinitely, saying in 2004 that significant change on the issue had not taken place in South Carolina.

Floyd Keith, executive director of the Black Coaches Association, says he received a request from members about furthering action against the state and closing what he saw as a loophole. “I don’t know that anybody is comfortable playing in a place where they fly the Confederate flag,” he says.

A subcommittee will study the question before bringing any recommendations to the full panel, Vowels says.

He expects the process to take several months.

If the ban is extended, South Carolina colleges could lose the right to host playoff games awarded to teams with stellar records.

Furman University’s football team has held Division I-AA playoff games at Paladin Stadium in five of the past seven seasons. Clemson University’s baseball team hosted NCAA tournament games nine times since 1994

“If the legislation goes through to change the interpretation, more people are going to be affected,” says Furman athletic director Gary Clark.

The NAACP has marched and protested outside several sporting events since the ban, including the 2002 NCAA basketball regional at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, the WTA’s Family Circle Cup in Charleston and the PGA Tour’s Verizon Heritage in Hilton Head.

And new arenas, like the University of South Carolina’s five-year-old, 18,000-seat Colonial Center, lost a bid for an NCAA basketball regional because of the ban, according to former athletic director Mike McGee.

Clark says Furman hosted the NCAA cross-country championships for 21 years until the event was taken away.

The Rev. Joseph Darby, vice president of Charleston’s NAACP chapter and a former officer at the state level, says it is appropriate for the BCA and NCAA to raise questions about the flag because of the number of Blacks who participate in college and pro sports.

“It’s a matter of respect,” he says. “They should be able to come into a state that’s visibly welcoming of them.”

Clark says he hopes to make a case to the NCAA to keep things as they are because he’s not sure athletic administrators can do much to change the flag’s place in the state.

“We try and stay out of the political arena and that’s foursquare where this is right now,” he says.

Messages left at the office of South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, were not immediately returned.

Keith says he and his group will continue actions that can raise awareness of the flag issue. “Have we changed some attitudes about it? Maybe, maybe not,” he says.

He says the NCAA panel’s examination gives him confidence they’ll follow through with harsher action. “We just feel like we have to take that stand,” he says.

— Associated Press

 

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