The basketball coaches for three major American universities made statements condemning the Confederate flag earlier this week.
Now, 150 years after the final shots of the Civil War rang out, the coaches for the University of Kentucky, the University of South Carolina, and Auburn University in Alabama have all announced their distaste for the Confederate banner.
During a conference call on Monday, Kentucky Coach John Calipari told participants that “obviously, [Confederate flags] offends a portion of our society, so people are deciding to take them down. That’s how I feel. It may offend, so I’d say do it.
Calipari deferred to others to make the decisions on whether or not to tear down flags or monuments to Confederate soldiers saying that he wasn’t running for public office. “I was thinking about running for president, but was discouraged from that,” he quipped.
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl partially agreed with Calipari. “The Confederacy means a lot in a very positive way to a lot of folks in the South and identifies the South in a historical sense,” Pearl said. “In other circles, it is not a positive … when something is offensive to somebody, I think it’s important to recognize that and take it down in public places.”
South Carolina coach Frank Martin went farther, though, and insisted that the flag doesn’t belong in public spaces. He did agree that the flag is important to some people.
“It’s part of our history and a lot of our fabric,” coach Martin said. “It represents what people are willing to die for. We have to embrace both sides of it. That’s why I think there’s a place for that flag; in people’s private homes, in museums, but not in public places.”
Martin later went on to issue an official statement on the flag.
As I stated through Twitter while on vacation, I stand with our Governor, Nikki Haley, with our Mayor, Steve Benjamin, with our school president, Dr. Harris Pastides, with our Athletic Director, Ray Tanner, with Coach Spurrier, Coach Staley and all other University of South Carolina coaches and state leaders that have spoken in calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds.
As a first generation American and a son of Cuban immigrants who came to this country in search of freedom; as the husband to another first generation American whose parents immigrated from Jamaica in search of a better life; as the father to three beautiful children who embody the splendor of diversity and as a life-long advocate and teacher to countless inner-city kids and disadvantaged youths, I ask our state leaders to do away with those antiquated symbols that represent hate and oppression to so many people. While I fully understand that the Confederate flag also represents the history of our state, I believe that it should be displayed at a museum and not at a public place which represents ALL the members of our incredible state.
The people of South Carolina have welcomed my family and me with open arms and with such warmth that there’s no place on earth that I would rather live. It is that kindness and love that are truly representative of our state. In the past three years my family and I have had nothing but great experiences in this great state because of its caring and loving people.
My path through the years as a basketball coach has taken me to many African American, Hispanic and other minorities’ homes. It’s been in those visits, in the eyes of parents who simply hope for a better life for their children and whose faith in God is at times their only refuge, that I am reminded how alike we all are. It is in those similarities – love for our families, respect for each other and sacrifice for our loved ones – that we must forge our future.
Martin, a Cuban-American from Miami, Calipari, who grew up near Pittsburgh, and Pearl, who hails from the Boston area, are all culturally untethered to the flag, though many fans of SEC basketball see the banner as a symbol of their heritage. The banner remains off-putting to many SEC basketball recruits, some African American and others hailing from outside the South, which makes disassociation from the flag an easy call for many college coaches.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com