Mississippi lawmakers voted Sunday to retire the Confederate battle emblem from its state flag following widespread, increased pressure that came in part from the world of sports.
Mississippi’s House and Senate voted in succession Sunday afternoon to retire the flag, with broad bipartisan support. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has said he will sign the bill, and the state flag would lose its official status as soon as he signs the measure.
Mississippi is the only state flag that continues to feature the banner of the Confederacy — a blue cross with 13 white stars. The state has faced pressure to change its flag during the past month amid worldwide protests against racial injustice in the United States.
Earlier this month, NASCAR banned the Confederate flag at its races two days after Bubba Wallace, the lone Black driver in NASCAR’s three national series, called for the organization to remove it.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey threatened on June 18 to not host any future conference championship events in Mississippi until the state changes its flag. The SEC last ran a championship event in Mississippi in May 2016.
“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,” Sankey said in a statement after Sunday’s vote. “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.”
A day after the SEC’s warning, the NCAA expanded its Confederate flag policy to prohibit all its championship events from being held in the states where the flag is flown.