Football coaches, policies, leadership and state flags

You can spot SEC Media Days topics coming in the distance, and the flag question, for South Carolina and Mississippi schools, was a natural.

It’s OK to ask the question. There are few boundaries when coaches step up to the mic in the main ballroom.

You just have to remember that you’re simply talking to football coaches.

They are their school’s highest-paid employees, but they’re not the policy makers.

Those who do set policy at Ole Miss and Mississippi State had already made statements condemning the state flag and calling for change.

MSU coach Dan Mullen stood behind that policy and received a lot of negative reaction.

Steve Spurrier applauded change in South Carolina – where the Confederate battle flag was removed from the statehouse grounds – and Hugh Freeze called for change in the state flag in his home state of Mississippi.

There is merit to the argument that Mullen failed to lead on the topic. The sad thing is how many voters, should the flag reach the ballot again, just might take their cue from a football coach.

Most coaches I’ve come across are so inwardly focused on their programs that they leave little time for politics or current events.

I don’t know how many Ole Miss and MSU players got the flag question, but I thought C.J. Johnson provided some real insight.

The first thing he did, as did Freeze, was to point to school policy. Then, as did Freeze, he offered a stronger opinion.

Johnson grew up in a small town that became known for the film “Mississippi Burning” and the murder of three civil rights workers in the ’60s.

“For me personally, growing up in Philadelphia, MS, in the past there’s been a lot of racism, particularly in the 80s and early 90s. I really feel like it should come down because although it represents some people’s history there are still a lot of people out there who have used the symbol to show hatred and ill will toward other people. I feel that once it starts threatening or making other people feel threatened by the symbol then it should just come down.”

While South Carolina and Mississippi football coaches were getting those questions at Media Days, AL.com was reporting that Alabama’s NAACP is seeking to have the Confederate flag removed from the uniforms and squad cars of state troopers.

So when Ole Miss defeated Alabama 23-17 last October in Oxford those Confederate flags were worn by the Alabama troopers that rushed Nick Saban to safety.

I understand the historical attachment to the state flag, but it’s not my place to say what does or does not make people feel threatened.

The flag discussion is different than it was 15 or 20 years ago, and law-abiding citizens should not have to live with the state’s approval for something that makes them feel this way.

If change comes in Mississippi hopefully it will be because leaders or voters are themselves informed and not because of what was said or not said at SEC Media Days.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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