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SEC pressuring Mississippi to change state flag

In the past week there have been a number of movements to remove monuments -- be they physical or symbolic -- to the Old South within college athletics.

First, it was Texas athletes telling the school to rename buildings and transition away from "The Eyes of Texas." Just today, Florida announced it will no longer conduct the "Gator Bait" chant and Georgia announced its band will no longer play the theme to Gone With the Wind. Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond is campaigning for his school to remove its statue of former Texas governor and school president Sul Ross.

All of those changes are "within the family," so to speak. The latest is not.

On Thursday evening, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey released a statement pressuring the state of Mississippi to change its flag, or else the conference will no longer hold championship events inside the state.

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For those unaware, this is the Mississippi state flag.

Mississippi lawmakers drafting resolution to take Confederate ...

The pressure campaign the SEC is launching is a page ripped from the NCAA's book, who often withhold championships events as a means to exert economic pressure in states where it wants to create social change.

The organization recently ended a 15-year ban on championship events in South Carolina after the state removed the Confederate flag from its statehouse. Similar campaigns have worked in North Carolina and Indiana.

Mississippi is now the only state to face an ongoing ban from hosting championship events, and has remained banned since the NCAA first implemented the tactic in 2001.

In response to Sankey's statement, Mississippi State president Mark Keenum released his own statement saying his school and Ole Miss will suffer as long as the Stars and Bars remain on the state's flag.

The statement echoes what Keenum said in 2015, when South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from atop the Columbia capitol building. "Flags should unite us and bring us together, not divide us," he said then. "The tragic events in South Carolina and the evolving national debate over the state flag is a debate that should take place today in Mississippi. In 2001, the Mississippi State University Faculty Senate voted overwhelmingly in support of changing the state flag of Mississippi prior to the failed statewide voter referendum on that question. I have seen no indication that attitudes have changed on that question on our campus." Bulldogs AD John Cohen stood by Sankey's statement as well.

Neither campus flies the state flag, nor do Mississippi's six other public universities.

Of course, it's hard to read Sankey's statement and not think about the flagship school in Mississippi. Though Ole Miss has banned Confederate flags from sporting events and deemphasized Colonel Reb, the school still goes by the name Rebels and wears the same red, blue and gray colors of the Confederate army. Even the name Ole Miss, which adorns the football team's helmets, has ties to the Old South.

As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.