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Confederate Flag Debate Still Active

21 Jul, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
SEC, High Schools Jumping Into the Fray – or Sometimes, Sidestepping It

The Confederate flag issue is still, well, an issue. New Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey spent his first SEC Media Day fielding the question.

According to an article in the Post and Courier, Sankey said he was “particularly proud of the leadership” at South Carolina, Mississippi and Mississippi State, “our campuses in the states at the center of this debate.”

However, Sankey stopped short of committing to apply pressure to the state of Mississippi after South Carolina and Alabama removed the Confederate flag from statehouse grounds. The Confederate flag is part of the Mississippi state flag.

A Charleston reporter asked Sankey if he would consider official SEC pressure against the Magnolia State.

“I have not,” Sankey said. “We have said previously that, when we look, for example, at championship events, we evaluate a full range of issues, and that will continue.”

Clearly, Sankey wants change; in fact, in a June 24 statement, he stated his support for the removal of the flag. According to Red Cup Rebellion, Sankey said that he was "proud" of renewed statements from Ole Miss and Mississippi State in denouncing the anachronism of the Confederate banner's inclusion on the state flag; however, he realizes change takes time.

Colleges are not the only ones grappling with the Confederate flag flap. High schools, too, have to make decisions. According to an article in the Huffington Post, school districts and administrators have been dealing with the use of Confederate symbols in sports for years, and not just in the South. From New York and Massachusetts, to Texas and Florida, schools have disassociated themselves with nicknames like Rebels and logos that feature gray-clad Confederate soldiers and the battle flag itself.

But unlike the NCAA, where hosting duties for national tournaments are on the line (and with them, millions of dollars in local revenue), questions at the high school have to be answered on a different level, and with a different approach.

Since the Charleston massacre, the debates have resumed in several school districts. A school board committee in Arkansas voted last month to phase out Southside High’s Rebels nickname and immediately end its use of “Dixie,” the Confederate anthem, as its fight song. In Alabama, complaints from some residents prompted a community meeting about Vestavia Hills High School's Rebels moniker. Local media have raised questions about symbols and mascots in Iowa and California, and the superintendent at Kentucky’s Allen Central High School, which also uses the Rebels name, last month removed old logos and photos that featured the Confederate flag from websites for the school and state athletic association. But other schools have stubbornly clung to their mascots and coats of arms, insisting nothing racist was ever intended.

And since the reach of the argument extends well beyond the South Carolina statehouse or the halls of Congress, it’s apparent the flag flap will continue.

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