Standing up on principle
Feb. 11, 2001
Last week, Mississippi's university coaches spoke up on the flag issue. Coaches are hired to coach. Their job is to help mold young lives while winning games. So why should they speak up on the flag issue?
Simple. It's a matter of image. The athletic teams of our universities travel this nation representing our state. No group of Mississippians has more contact with people beyond our borders than our student athletes and their coaches. They experience first hand how others see us.
Ole Miss football coach David Cutcliffe said it well. "It's an image thing. We know we have a great state. We want people to see us in that light."
Additionally, recruiting student athletes to Mississippi is made more difficult by ill-informed, negative perceptions of our state. Ole Miss basketball coach Rod Barnes considers the image of the Confederate flag "one of the biggest challenges" he faced as a new coach.
Southern Miss baseball Coach Corky Palmer is concerned about the NCAA blocking Mississippi schools from hosting regional competitions.
Many coaches expect the NCAA, the ruling body for college athletics, to ban post season competition in states with the Confederate battle flag included in their state flag. While this may be just a threat, loss of home advantage and loss of revenue are causes for concern.
Striving to compete
And why should we listen to a collection of coaches? They are striving to compete with universities across our nation. They experience the negative impact of Mississippi's image.
Mississippi State University's football coach, Jackie Sherrill, noted the "divisive" impact of the current state flag. Sherrill called for a flag that "every Mississippian can support."
These coaches could easily hide from this controversy. After all, they have other responsibilities in their athletic programs and other ways of spending their time and intellectual energy.
Yet they chose to come forward, to express their opinions, to take a stand based on principle and to send out a valuable message to prospective signees. Their important voices add to the collective debate on the state flag issue as Mississippians head for an April 17 date with the ballot box.
The Meridian Star applauds their willingness to express their views on the flag issue. Pride and unity are values to be taught and learned. These are the same types of values our state flag should convey to all Mississippians and to people elsewhere.