(CBS News)– The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced on Friday that NCAA championship events will not be held in states where the Confederate flag has a “prominent presence.” The statement targeted Mississippi, writing that it’s “the only state currently affected by the Association’s policy.”
Mississippi has the only state flag that currently includes the Confederate battle emblem. The flag has come under increased scrutiny recently, due to its ties to slavery.
The association’s policy previously barred championship events from being awarded in advance to states that prominently displayed the confederate flag. But the policy now covers “nonpredetermined” championship events — where a team earned the right to host a game based on their tournament seeding or ranking — too.
The association hosts 90 championships in 24 sports every year, according to the NCAA. NCAA President Mark Emmert said that NCAA championships are “a special experience for college athletes.”
“We must do all we can to ensure that NCAA actions reflect our commitment to inclusion and support all our student-athletes,” he said. “There can be no place within college sports where any student-athlete is demeaned or unwelcome.”
The NCAA’s announcement comes just one day after the Southeastern Conference (SEC) told the state that it has to change its flag or risk losing host rights for championship events.
The executive officers of Mississippi’s eight public universities said they respect the NCAA’s decision. The schools represented are Mississippi State University, University of Mississippi, Alcorn State University, Delta State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi University for Women, Mississippi Valley State University, and University of Southern Mississippi.
“Several years ago, our universities recognized that the Mississippi state flag in its current form is divisive and chose to lower the flag on our campuses,” they said in a statement. “Today, we are committed to continuing to do our part to ensure Mississippi is united in its pursuit of a future that is free of racism and discrimination.”
They added that the state is potentially foregoing “the millions of dollars in economic impact that NCAA postseason events bring to our state.” Such a decision, they said, is “unfortunate” for the student athletes and coaches “who devote so much of their time, talent, hard work and dedication to their sports and our universities.”
“We are looking forward to a time when our state flag represents the full and rich diversity of Mississippi, a diversity that is reflected in our student-athletes, our student bodies, and the friends and fans of our athletics teams,” the officials said. “We look forward to a time when Mississippi’s state flag unites Mississippians, rather than divides us.”