The wall separating sports and politics formally crumbled to the ground in Mississippi on Thursday, as nearly all the state’s collegiate head coaches descended upon the state house in Jackson to do some good, old fashioned lobbyin’.
Ole Miss’s Lane Kiffin, Mississippi State’s Mike Leach, Mississippi Valley State’s Vincent Dancy, Alcorn State’s Fred McNair, Delta State’s Todd Cooley and Jackson State’s John Hendrick join a contingent to persuade lawmakers to change the state flag. (Southern Miss’s Jay Hopson is attending to the recent death of his father; his brother, Briggs Hopson, is a Republican state Senator who wants to change the flag.)
To be sure, the state flag — which still adorns the Stars and Bars in the top left portion — has been a controversial issue for years in the state, but the reason it’s an issue now is because of sports.
The SEC announced last week it will not play any conference postseason events in the state until the flag is changed, and was quickly joined by Conference USA and the NCAA. The NCAA has already forbidden Mississippi from hosting predetermined, neutral site postseason events such as NCAA Tournament games but, in response to the SEC’s announcement, extended its ban to now prevent Mississippi schools from hosting postseason events. Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill also tweeted that he will not play until the flag is changed.
This means that Ole Miss or Mississippi State could be awarded the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA baseball tournament, but be forced to go on the road for the Regional and Super Regional rounds until the flag is changed.
So the state’s college coaches are spending the day trying to change it.
What a picture. All of the college coaches at the State Capitol today. pic.twitter.com/pGfspLUrTx
— Nick Niehaus (@nickniehausWAPT) June 25, 2020
A light moment before today's press conference between @Coach_Leach and @Lane_Kiffin . The Pirate with mask tug on the conductor of the Lane train. The Egg Bowl should be lots of fun. #MississippiState #OleMiss pic.twitter.com/u9Mx8WoNT7
— Joe Cook (@JoeCookSports) June 25, 2020
“A flag should unify its people … This one doesn’t, so change it.”
— Mississippi State Football (@HailStateFB) June 25, 2020
— Ole Miss Athletics (@OleMissSports) June 25, 2020
To be clear, the state’s college sports community is not alone here. Far from it. A long list of politicians and groups are in favor of changing the flag — a group that includes former governor Phil Bryant.
— Phil Bryant (@PhilBryantMS) June 25, 2020
A vote among the state legislature to begin the process of changing the flag could be scheduled for as soon as Friday.