In what was seen as a resounding victory for the state of Mississippi, the state flag was changed amid protests of social injustice throughout the country. Searching for a more inclusive flag, there were calls to change the flag which featured a Confederate symbol within the flag.
Sparked by calls from the NCAA and SEC to not hold championship events in the state and Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill threatening to not play unless the flag was changed, legislature acted fast and ruled the flag be changed. One coach who was thrilled for the change was Ole Miss basketball coach Kermit Davis.
Speaking on ESPN’s First Take on Monday morning, Davis explained why it was such an important change for the state.
“I was born and raised in Mississippi,” Davis said. “It was great change for us. I think on anything pertaining to a symbol like the flag of Mississippi, there was both sides but it was (an) overwhelming majority to change the flag. We needed a flag that represents all of our citizens. We needed a flag that represents our young people, our students, our student athletes. I think that anybody who’s visited Oxford or Ole Miss, it’s an amazing community, with open arms, great family community that our student athletes have an enjoyable time. All three do, basketball, athletics, academics and socially.
“As you know, we’ve seen an unbelievable movement in our country. It’s a great movement that we’ve seen a lot of young people voice their opinions with platforms. College athletes and student athletes all over the country. That is probably one of the most gratifying things as a coach…to hear their voice. I think the people of Mississippi were much better listeners over the last year. It’s just one of those things that the legislature, both the house and senate took a hold of it, the SEC, we have unbelieve leadership from Greg Sankey….then you know Kylin Hill spoke out and as administrators and coaches, it became a total movement to get the flag down.”
Davis was asked about what further steps will be taken to support racial equality and social justice and while Davis couldn’t speak for all schools and locations throughout the state, he said their practice starts right at Ole Miss.
“I can only speak for what we’re doing at Ole Miss,” Davis said. “We ve had constant dialogue from the George Floyd incident to the flag change. On our campus, our students formed their own unity rally. We’ve been very proud of the student athletes from all sports. Their voices are being heard in our community. We just have to keep listening, open up, do a great job in our state and at our universities.”
Sankey released a statement after Mississippi’s decision that reads, in part, “I am proud of our universities’ leadership, and the engagement of student-athletes and coaches in the efforts to change the State of Mississippi flag. The agreement to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the flag is a positive and appropriate action, and I applaud the Mississippi House of Representatives and Senate for today’s action.
“I am also grateful for Governor Reeves’ openness to sign a bill to change the flag. As I have frequently said, our students deserve the opportunity to learn and compete in welcoming environments. Today’s action is welcomed in the spirit of this goal.”