The NCAA, which oversees and governs the nation’s college athletics, ruled on Friday that it would ban all postseason college athletics events from being hosted in Mississippi until lawmakers change the state flag, which is the last in the nation containing the Confederate battle emblem.
College baseball is immensely popular in Mississippi, and the state’s big three universities — Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Southern Miss — regularly host postseason tournaments. Additionally, Mississippi State has hosted several women’s basketball tournament games in recent years.
“There is no place in college athletics or the world for symbols or acts of discrimination and oppression,” said Michael V. Drake, chair of the board and president of the Ohio State University. “We must continually evaluate ways to protect and enhance the championship experience for college athletes. Expanding the Confederate flag policy to all championships is an important step by the NCAA to further provide a quality experience for all participants and fans.”
The ruling comes a day after dozens of current and former Mississippi college athletes penned a letter to top NCAA leaders asking for this specific move.
The NCAA in 2001 passed restrictions for postseason play in Mississippi because of its state flag. But those restrictions do not include postseason bans for several sports.
In their Thursday letter, the athletes argued that the NCAA’s current postseason bans disproportionately affect black college athletes. While the NCAA enforces Mississippi postseason bans for college football and men’s basketball — sports that have high percentages of black players — others sports with very low percentages of black players like baseball, tennis and volleyball have no such Mississippi postseason ban.
“We believe it will finally push Mississippi lawmakers to join civic leaders and the business community in solidarity to take action to de-sanction the current Mississippi state flag,” the athletes wrote.