Mississippi is the only state affected by the policy change, the NCAA said. A portion of the state flag of Mississippi includes the same design as the Confederate battle flag.
“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 NCAA board of governors 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 decision marked an expansion from NCAA’s existing policy on Confederate flags, which was enacted in 2001. The policy barred championship events from being awarded in advance to states where the Confederate flag had a prominent presence but it allowed events to proceed if schools with a conflict won the right to host an event during tournament play.
The NCAA policy update came one day after Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey warned that Mississippi should change its state flag design or risk losing out on future championship events. Two SEC schools located in the state, Mississippi State University and Ole Miss, expressed support for Sankey’s statement.
“Competing in an NCAA championship is a special experience for college athletes who compete at the highest level and we are grateful for the college athlete voice leading to this decision,” said NCAA Mark Emmert. “We must do all we can to ensure that NCAA actions reflect our commitment to inclusion and support all our student-athletes. There can be no place within college sports where any student-athlete is demeaned or unwelcome.”
Critics have renewed calls for the removal of Confederate statues and symbols in recent days amid nationwide protests against systemic racism and inequality. Earlier this month, NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from flying at its events.