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Wrong battle, wrong place, wrong time
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Rmun Offline
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<a href='http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20041112/COL0504/411120376/1173/SPORTS' target='_blank'>http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll...376/1173/SPORTS</a>

Wrong battle, wrong place, wrong time

By Rick Cleveland
rcleveland@clarionledger.com

Mississippi State had to "host" a basketball game in Birmingham Thursday night because the state of Mississippi's flag still includes the Confederate battle flag.

The NCAA's policy that forced such a ridiculous situation smacks of both hypocrisy and dumber-than-dirt stupidity.

Alabama's state flag doesn't incorporate the Confederate battle flag; instead, it is, according to several historical Web sites, inspired by — and patterned from — the Confederate battle flag. It became the state flag in 1895 when William C. Oates, formerly a colonel in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, was the Alabama governor.



That certainly should make the athletes from Fairfield feel better about being in Birmingham — or Bombingham as it was called during the civil rights struggle. Maybe while in Birmingham, visiting athletes will catch a glimpse of Alabama's coat of arms, which does contain the Confederate battle flag.

This isn't meant as a knock on Birmingham or Alabama, which, like much of Mississippi, has come so far in terms of racial harmony. It is meant as a knock on the NCAA, which really is fighting the wrong battle in the wrong place at the wrong time.

'An army of feelings'

You probably have read what the NCAA said this week. It was typical NCAA gobbledy-gook, far too many words which say far too little.

"As individuals ponder why the NCAA would get involved with this matter, we have always listened to what was being said by our coaches, student-athletes, our constituent organizations and other individuals in our membership at the highest level. It is apparent that the Confederate battle flag still evokes an army of feelings among the association's constituents. We'll continue to monitor this issue within our membership."

First, the hypocrisy: The NCAA bars schools located in states that display the Confederate battle emblem from hosting predetermined or exempt NCAA events. It doesn't ban those same schools from hosting awarded postseason tournaments in sports such as baseball, tennis, softball and others.

What's the difference? Are tennis or baseball players less sensitive to symbols of racial oppression?

Secondly, the stupidity: What does any of this have to do with basketball?

Nothing. That's what. Nothing. What the NCAA's misguided policy accomplished this week is this: The American Cancer Society, the beneficiary of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, is going to make far less money because crowds in Birmingham will be much smaller than crowds in Starkville would have been.

1 of every 3 citizens

Some long-time readers might charge hypocrisy on my part. Yes, I strongly supported changing the Mississippi flag in 2001. And I pointed out the NCAA would withhold some events from Mississippi if we didn't change the flag.

But that's not why I supported change. I believed then — and believe now — that any symbol that offends so many of our citizens should be retired. As I wrote:

"I don't worry nearly so much about how others perceive us, as I do about how we treat one another. We live in a state where one out of every three citizens is African American. ... We will never reach our potential until we work together with respect for one another.

"The Confederate battle flag offends many black (and white) citizens and for obvious reasons. The Confederate battle flag, along with the Nazi swastika, has been adopted by virtually every racist/hate group, including the Klan. ...

"Many old flag supporters talk about protecting our heritage. Whose heritage? Look around. One of every three of us is black. My great grandfather fought for the Confederacy, but my Mississippi heritage is more about manners and civility — about treating people the way I want to be treated — than it is about a piece of cloth."

I still feel that way — strongly, every bit as strongly as I feel what the NCAA is doing is wrong.
11-12-2004 08:15 PM
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