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Flag ban tugs on Ole Miss traditions

Students wave Confederate flags

Confederate banner impedes athletic recruiting

October 25, 1997
Web posted at: 10:44 p.m. EDT (0244 GMT)

From Correspondent Brian Cabell

OXFORD, Mississippi (CNN) -- On any given football Saturday, when the Ole Miss Rebels find the end zone and the crowd explodes, you can see Confederate flags being waved.

But there are not nearly as many rebel flags as in years past -- and there will soon be even fewer if the University of Mississippi's chancellor has his way.

This week, chancellor Robert Khayat ordered a ban on all sticks at athletic events, starting next week. It's ostensibly for safety reasons, but no one is fooled -- it is clearly an attempt to keep out the Confederate flags attached to those sticks.

CNN's Brian Cabell reports
icon 2 min., 1 sec. VXtreme streaming video

At Ole Miss, tradition is grudgingly giving way to the political and social reality that the rebel flag is perceived by some people, particularly African Americans, as a racist symbol.

"We're tired of the attention, the negative publicity that we're getting," said athletic director Pete Boone. "I mean, we've got a great university here, a great academic program, and we're being held back from a national perspective because of this Confederate flag."

Saturday's football game against Alabama was the first since Khayat ordered the ban. And while the student senate this week also recommended that the rebel flags be left home, they were particularly visible in the student section.

"Other people can do things and wave things and it's fine, but if we do it, it seems like it's racist," complained one student. "But it's not racist. We're proud of our Southern heritage."

Ironically, many of those who have forsaken the flag are older Ole Miss fans, who express fears about what the Confederate flag in the stands does to the quality of the team on the field.

Indeed, Ole Miss football coach Tommy Tuberville has told fans that the university is losing black recruits because of the flag. He says he's gratified that flags are disappearing.

"I'm proud of our students and our fans, and I think they understand the situation," he said. "Hopefully, we can continue to make progress."


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