Mississippi

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With a New Flag, Mississippi is Back in the Game

2 Jan, 2021

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Here’s something that happened on Election Day that might have gotten overlooked – at least in the 49 states other than the one where it happened. Mississippi, the last holdout of the Confederate battle emblem, voted to adopt its new state flag.

The new flag, according to CNN, features a white magnolia blossom surrounded by 20 stars, signifying Mississippi's status at the 20th state in the union, and a gold five-point star to reflect Mississippi's indigenous Native American tribes.

It also has the words, “In God We Trust.”

The flag’s magnolia blossom appears on a dark blue backdrop, with red bands and gold stripes — befitting Mississippi’s nickname (the Magnolia State), its state flower (the magnolia) and the state tree (the magnolia tree).

The design was chosen by the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag. The commission received thousands of submissions and narrowed them down to a single choice – the Magnolia – which was submitted for public vote as a ballot measure on November 3, 2020. Voters overwhelmingly approved the new design.

The next step is for the state legislature to enact into law the new design as Mississippi's official state flag when it meets for its first regular session of 2021.

But the flag is already flying, merch is already being sold and then there’s the ultimate positive development – the SEC and NCAA will once again be able to consider the state as a postseason host.

But nothing happens overnight, and the move to a new flag was a long time coming.

Although there had long been requests to change the flag, which prominently featured the Confederate battle emblem, it was in June of 2020, in the wake of nationwide social and political unrest, that the SEC formally announced it would not host championships in the state (the NCAA made a similar announcement).

The time for that ultimatum was right in many ways. The #BlackLivesMatter movement had gained tremendous force and power, and it was quite clear that racial intolerance has become, well, intolerable. And college sports was a force to be reckoned with.

“If anything moves Mississippi’s needle, it’s sports,” noted Sports Illustrated. “More specifically, it’s college sports. And even more specifically, it’s SEC sports.”

To be clear, the state was already banned by NCAA from hosting pre-determined championship events, like NCAA men’s basketball regionals or NCAA golf championship tournaments. However, if a college or university team earned the right to host a championship game based on its tournament seeding or ranking – considered a nonpredetermined award – the team could host on its college campus or in its home territory. 

Because of this, Mississippi had been able to play championships where a team had earned the ability to host. But said, the NCAA, that would no longer be the case. The NCAA’s announcement of this decision came down on June 19 -- Juneteenth, the national celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States in 1865.

And it worked. On June 28, the Mississippi state legislature overwhelmingly voted to remove the Confederate symbol from the state flag, and to design a new one, featuring the words, “In God We Trust.”

The change was heralded by the SEC as a major step forward.

"It is past time for change to be made to the flag of the State of Mississippi," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey had said in a statement posted to Twitter. "Our students deserve an opportunity to learn and compete in environment that are inclusive and welcoming to all."

NCAA president Mark Emmert released a statement saying Mississippi’s decision will “open the opportunity to hold NCAA championships.”

And while NCAA championships have been awarded for this cycle, look for Mississippi to be in the game for the next one.

And in the meantime, NCAA still has not announced the locations of its fall championships, which were moved to 2020, despite the organization’s initial promises to do so by the end of November.

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