SEC applauds Miss. for removing Confederate symbol from flag

The SEC applauded Sunday’s decision by Mississippi lawmakers to remove the Confederate symbol from their state flag.

On Thursday, a group from public universities throughout the state that included Ole Miss football coach Lane Kiffin and Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach asked the state legislature to redesign the state’s flag without the Confederate emblem.

“I am proud of our universities’ leadership, and the engagement of student-athletes and coaches in the efforts to change the State of Mississippi flag,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement Sunday.

“The agreement to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the flag is a positive and appropriate action, and I applaud the Mississippi House of Representatives and Senate for today’s action. I am also grateful for Governor Reeves’ openness to sign a bill to change to flag. As I have frequently said, our students deserve the opportunity to learn and compete in welcoming environments. Today’s action is welcomed in the spirit of this goal.”

Governor Tate Reeves, a Republican, has said he will sign the new legislation.

Kiffin and Leach were among 46 coaches and six administrators from eight campuses who were on hand at the Capitol in Jackson on Thursday to express support for the flag change.

Nikki McCray-Penson, the women’s basketball coach at Mississippi State, joined Ole Miss men’s basketball coach Kermit Davis is speaking on behalf of the group.

“Mississippi State University’s tradition of diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity is hampered by this symbol of hatred,” said McCray-Penson, the former Old Dominion coach hired at Mississippi State in April. “We strive in all ways daily to bring the Bulldog family in our state together through competing in sports, excelling in the classroom and making a positive impact in our community. Yet this symbol of hatred is so much bigger than athletics.”

With support from the SEC, the NCAA on June 19 prohibited postseason events of any kind from taking place in Mississippi until the symbol of the Confederacy was permanently removed from the flag.

Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill, the third-leading rusher in the Southeastern Conference last year, had said he wouldn’t play for a school representing the state until a new flag is adopted.

He wrote on Twitter after Sunday’s votes, “Big salute to EVERY university in this State that helped ….”

The current flag has been in use since 1894.