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Confederate Flag Flies Near NCAA Tournament Arena

| by Michael Allen
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Some protesters flew a large Confederate flag next to Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina, on March 19 during the first- and second-round men's NCAA basketball tournament games.

The protesters, who said they wanted to make their presence known to the NCAA, placed the flag on the back of a pickup truck, which was on top of a parking garage. Police told them to move the vehicle some 50 feet away because of safety issues, notes The Associated Press.

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Additionally, nearly a dozen demonstrators, many waving Confederate flags, gathered across the street from the arena.

In a statement, NCAA executive Dan Gavitt said the sports body would not allow any symbols that could jeopardize safety on the venue property during the games. 

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The NCAA had refused to allow South Carolina to host championship games because of the flag from 2001 until the ban was lifted in 2015.

That was the year South Carolina removed the flag from its statehouse grounds, after Dylann Roof, who was photographed with the flag, killed nine African-American churchgoers.

After South Carolina defeated Duke 88-81, South Carolina coach Frank Martin addressed the flag issue, notes Sporting News:

It's unfortunate, but it's America. And you think we all agree on everything? Our state is united. Our state believes in peace and harmony. That's why this event is being held in our state right now. Our state's progressive. Our state has incredible people that's about moving forward.

But it's America. We have freedoms. People have freedoms to do whatever they want to do with themselves and their property. It is what it is.

There's things out there that I don't like. But I can't force people to do what I want them to do. All I know is this unbelievable university and state has taken in a son of Cuban immigrants that's married to a Jamaican woman, has mixed kids, and they've treated me like I'm one of their own from day one.

I wouldn't want to coach in any other state or on any other group of people, for any other bosses than the ones I've got. Our alums, our community is a beautiful, beautiful place. It's a united state. Unfortunately things like that happen, but we live in the United States of America. And we don't all agree on things.

Hunter Meadows, one of the protesters, told AP: "I didn't feel it was right when the flag came down. We wanted to show the NCAA that we're still here."

Meadows said his ancestors fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

Historian Ken Burns told CBS News' "Face the Nation" in August 2015 that South Carolina’s Articles of Secession -- during the Civil War -- were based on the slavery of black people:

[South Carolina’s Articles of Secession] do not mention states’ rights. They mention slavery, slavery, slavery. And that we have to remember. It is much more complicated than that, but essentially the reason why we murdered each other -- more than 2 percent of our population, 750,000 Americans died, that’s more than all the wars from the Revolution through Afghanistan combined -- was over essentially the issue of slavery.

After the Civil War, the Confederate flag saw a resurgence in the south because of federal efforts to desegregate schools and public facilities -- Jim Crow laws -- in the 1950s and 1960s.

Sources: The Associated Press, Sporting NewsFace The Nation via YouTube / Photo Credit: Donald Lee Pardue/Flickr