Mississippi is the only state in the nation to still feature the Confederate symbol, which consists of 13 stars and a blue cross, on its flag—and that hasn't escaped the NCAA's eye. Now, the college athletic organization's Southeastern Conference is warning the state that if it doesn't nix the symbol from the flag, it risks a big consequence. "It is past time for change to be made to the flag of the State of Mississippi," reads a Thursday statement from SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, noting if that significant tweak isn't made, the conference will mull keeping SEC championship events out of the Magnolia State. "Our students deserve an opportunity to learn and compete in environments that are inclusive and welcoming to all."
ESPN notes there hasn't been an SEC championship game held in Mississippi since 2016. In a 2001 referendum, voters in the state opted to keep the flag as is, but after the death of George Floyd and a resurgence of Black Lives Matters rallies, the outcry to change the flag was re-upped. Among those who've joined that call: the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University, both SEC members that say they've been lobbying for years for this change. "Mississippi needs a flag that represents the qualities about our state that unite us, not those that still divide us," reads a statement from University of Mississippi Chancellor Glenn Boyce and his vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics, Keith Carter. A bipartisan proposal to change the flag has been submitted to the state's Legislature. (Read more Mississippi stories.)