March Madness kicks into full swing today with games in Buffalo, Milwaukee, Orlando, and Spokane. Another four cities—Raleigh, San Antonio, San Diego, and St. Louis—will see men’s action on Friday. The women’s tournament then tips off on Saturday with weekend games spread out over 16 other cities. By the time the NCAA crowns a men’s and women’s champion in Arlington and Nashville, respectively, more than 30 cities will have hosted tournament games. None of those games, however, will be in South Carolina or Mississippi. The reason: The Confederate battle flags that still fly over the state capitol grounds in Columbia and Jackson.
In 2001, the NCAA imposed a ban on either state hosting post-season sporting events at predetermined sites (an important caveat I’ll get to in a second) as long as the flags continued to fly, and neither it nor the states have budged since. That is set to change somewhat next year when a format tweak will allow for a key exception for the women’s tournament. But that change won’t be in place in time to help the Lady Gamecocks, who are currently bearing the brunt of the NCAA post-season boycott of the Palmetto State…
As you and anyone else who’s ever read my stuff knows, I take a backseat to no one in my ardent desire to get that flag down. In fact, starting with my first editorial on the subject in 1994, I almost certainly hold the world record for number of words written with that aim in mind.
But as you probably also know, I think one of the most powerful factors keeping the flag there is the NAACP boycott. It causes a defiant backlash effect among the majority in the Legislature. History, and in our case personal experience, teaches us that the surest way to get a white South Carolinian to do something is to get someone from other parts of the country to try to make him stop doing it. (OK, technically, the NAACP boycott is driven by the South Carolina chapter, which had a lot of pull in the national organization at the time the boycott started — which is why SC is singled out while states like Georgia, which at one point during the life of the boycott even incorporated the symbol into its state flag, escape this censure. But the boycott is under the authority of the national organization, and in SC minds qualifies as out-of-staters trying to tell us what to do.)
And Slate smugly moralizing on the subject — the Tweet promoting this post said, “The (excellent) reason South Carolina and Mississippi don’t get to host March Madness” — only increases the effect. So, way to go there, Josh. Sheesh.