Currently, the University of Mississippi Lady Rebels softball team is hosting the NCAA regionals on campus. But the Mississippi branch of the NAACP and other local civil rights groups have long opposed states that continue to fly the confederate flag, and the NCAA had been doing a fairly decent job keeping championships out of states until changes were made, such as in South Carolina for example.
The sports world has consistently told the Black community how it feels about the legacy of the Confederacy time and time again, year after year. Last year I had an in-depth conversation with actress and real-deal activist Aunjanue Ellis about her efforts to pressure the NFL into doing something about teams in states that display a portion of the confederate battle flag.
There are several layers to this situation. The first and most obvious is it represents a racist insurrection that, if successful, would have insured that my ancestors in this country remained in bondage indefinitely. But that is often trumped by the the so-called legacy argument often floated by neo-Confederates and their apologists that claims it is apart of the familial heritage of white southerners and not necessarily racist at all. I know that to be farcical at best, as do many Americans.
However, some find it easier to placate to racist ideology than to stand up and do something about it. Although the NCAA has been on the side of racial justice on this particular issue, they appear to be lying down in the face of an ideology that calls for the complete elimination and subjugation of myself and anyone who looks like me.
Because Ole Miss earned the right to play at home due to on-field performance, they're not effected by the flag policy.
“Championships where student-athletes earn the opportunity to play a championship on their own campus are not covered in the Confederate flag policy,” Gail Dent, the associate director of the NCAA’s external affairs said this week. “This distinction is consistent with the NCAA’s commitment to student-athletes.”
The NAACP and many other groups across the state don’t agree with the organization’s classification of the event.
Derrick Johnson, the president of Mississippi’s chapter of the NAACP, reportedly said that the NCAA has a longstanding policy of opposing racism. He didn’t understand why they’d decide to balk now.
“A ban on ‘NCAA postseason events that are not pre-selected’ is not enough,” Johnson said through a statement. “It is not enough to oppose symbols of racism for baseball or softball regionals then conspicuously ignore that same racism for basketball and golf.”
Johnson argued that the NCAA has to remain consistent if they are going to push this accord.
"If the NCAA truly oppose states where the confederate flag is flown prominently then they must oppose it in all instances were symbols of racism are prevalent,” he said.
David Leonard, a Washington State professor who studies the intersection of race, sports, and gender, pointed out that in states like Mississippi, all these separate avenues do intersect.
“The symbols of white supremacy matter,” Leonard told SBNation. “Those who say that the NCAA should stay out of politics and that placing championships while the flag flies is political: giving sanction and normalization is political."
The university had to remove the flag from athletic areas on campus and the university eventually removed it as well by 2015. In 2016, 12 different bills died in the Mississippi legislature to either re-design or dismantle the 123-year old flag. The same year, lawmakers pushed to amend current state policy forcing the flag onto the campuses of public universities if they received state funding.
Leonard argues that the time is as ripe as ever to oppose symbols of white supremacy, but that this wasn’t shocking from the NCAA because the organization has “no moral compass.”
“Saying to African Americans, ‘we support you if you are hitting home runs, scoring touchdowns, and making buckets but not when you are demanding equality, justice and to be seen as humanity’ is not only political but the ultimate expression of privilege,” he said. “The NAACP is merely asking the NCAA to continue to stand against the symbols of racism, to live by own its words in opposition to the persistently high tides of racism.”