Sports world weighs in on Confederate flag debate

flag

The recent flap over the Confederate flag has carried over into the sports world, with various sports officials weighing in on the debate whether to remove the controversial symbol from the South Carolina statehouse grounds.

NASCAR released a statement Tuesday supporting Gov. Nikki Haley’s call to remove the symbol, but steered clear of banning the flag will from the organization’s racetracks. The statement comes weeks before the Sept. 6 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway returns to its traditional Labor Day weekend date. It’s not uncommon to see Confederate flags flown in the infield at many NASCAR races, particularly at Darlington. Based on the statement, those flags will continue to fly.

“As our industry works collectively to ensure that all fans are welcome at our races, NASCAR will continue our long-standing policy to disallow the use of the Confederate Flag symbol in any official NASCAR capacity,” NASCAR said in a statement. “While NASCAR recognizes that freedom of expression is an inherent right of all citizens, we will continue to strive for an inclusive environment at our events.”

Haley and other state leaders, including South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier, have been vocal about removing the flag in the wake of last week’s deadly shooting at a Charleston church. Dylann Roof was accused of killing nine black members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Since the killings, photos of Roof posing with the Confederate flag have emerged. The flag is a symbol often associated with white supremacists, but also is embraced by many who see it as a symbol of Southern heritage.

“The South Carolina football team, players and coaches strongly support Governor Haley’s decision to remove the flag from the capitol,” Spurrier tweeted Tuesday afternoon.

The Palmetto State has been the target of an NAACP boycott that has cost it several opportunities to host sporting events, including the ACC Baseball Tournament which had planned to play at Pelicans Ballpark in Myrtle Beach. Sports tourism officials have supported removing the flag to help attract more events to South Carolina.

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