Athletic directors, coaches lobby Mississippi Legislature about state flag
JACKSON, Miss. (WTOK) - Athletic directors and coaches from Mississippi public universities held a news conference at the Capitol to advocate for adoption of a new flag for the state of Mississippi. It came days after the NCAA banned any championships from being held in the state of Mississippi while the current flag is in place.
Mississippi State women’s basketball head coach Nikki McCray says she knows what it’s like for people to pretend the Confederate flag does not have negative racial tones connected to it.
“We can’t be an elite program without hosting postseason events,” she said.
She says Mississippi State’s goals for inclusion and equality is hampered by the state flag. She calls it a symbol of hatred.
Ole Miss head men’s basketball coach Kermit Davis says his players want the quickest response possible, and he thinks a trip to visit the lawmakers is the quickest way they can make that happen.
House Speaker Phillip Gunn thanked the coaches and athletic directors for appearing and speaking on the issue.
“This entire state is screaming for change, all the business leaders, religious leaders, athletic directors are screaming for change,” Gunn said. “The image of out state is at stake here. The nation is watching. They want to know what we stand for.”
Gunn says the NCAA ruling hurts Mississippi financially and in recruiting, but it’s a bigger issue than just athletics.
Here’s a list of attendees, according to the Institutions of Higher Learning:
Alcorn State University
Landon Bussie, Men’s Basketball Coach
Jimmy Joseph, Track and Cross Country Coach
Nathaniel Kilbert, Women’s Basketball Coach
Kevin Larry, Soccer Coach
Fred McNair, Football Coach
Darnesha Moore, Tennis Coach
Josef Rankin, Softball Coach
Bretton Richardson, Baseball Coach
Melissa Robinson, Volleyball Coach
Delta State University
Todd Cooley, Head Football Coach
Mike Kinnison, Director of Athletics
Mike Neinaber, Head Men’s Basketball Coach
Jackson State University Wayne Brent, Head Men’s Basketball Coach Dr. Ted Flogaites, Head Soccer Coach John Hendrick, Head Football Coach Gabrielle Moore, Head Tennis Coach Kevin Montgomery, Head Softball Coach Tomekia Reed, Head Women’s Basketball Coach Ashley Robinson, Vice President & Director of Athletics Mark Thorne, Head Cross Country/Track & Field Coach Rose Washington, Head Volleyball Coach
Mississippi State University
John Cohen, Director of Athletics Ben Howland, Head Men’s Basketball Coach
Mike Leach, Head Football Coach Chris Lemonis, Head Baseball Coach Nikki McCray-Penson, Head Women’s Basketball Coach Samantha Ricketts, Head Softball Coach
Chris Woods, Head Track & Field Coach
Mississippi University for Women
Dedrick Burnett, Track and Field Coach
Brian Merkel, Men’s Basketball Coach
Daniel Talley, Tennis Coach
Morgan Turnipseed, Cross Country Coach
Mississippi Valley State University
Alonzo Banks, Head Track & Field/Cross Country Coach Vincent Dancy, Head Football Coach Franklyn Davies, Head Soccer Coach Dianthia Ford-Kee, Director of Athletics
Lindsey Hunter, Head Men’s Basketball Coach Riley Murry, Head Tennis Coach Lee Smith, Associate Athletic Director/Head Softball Coach
Aaron Stevens, Head Baseball Coach Ashley Walker-Johnson, Head Women’s Basketball Coach Janay Yancey, Head Volleyball Coach
University of Mississippi
Mike Bianco, Head Baseball Coach
Keith Carter, Athletics Director
Kermit Davis, Head Men’s Basketball Coach Lane Kiffin, Head Football Coach
Yolette McPhee-McCuin, Head Women’s Basketball Coach Connie Price-Smith, Head Track & Field/Cross Country Coach
University of Southern Mississippi Scott Berry, Head Baseball Coach Jay Ladner, Head Men’s Basketball Coach Joye Lee-McNellis, Head Women’s Basketball Coach
Jeff Mitchell, Deputy Director of Athletics
After the SEC and NCAA announced postseason events will be banned in Mississippi until the state flag is changed, coaches and athletic directors from both Mississippi State and Ole Miss voiced their support of such change.
Now, coaches and athletic directors from both universities are expected to confront state legislators about changing the flag.
According to a tweet from Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger, head football coaches Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach are scheduled to lobby at the Mississippi Capitol on Thursday. Head coaches from other sports at both schools, along with athletic directors John Cohen and Keith Carter, are also expected to be in attendance.
Dellenger also tweeted that coaches from Southern Miss, including men’s basketball coach Jay Ladner, will be at the Mississippi Capitol to lobby.
Mississippi's eight public universities released a joint statement on June 19 condemning the state flag.
“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,” the statement read. “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. Such a future must include a new state flag.”
Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss do not fly the state flag on campus anymore.
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