Legislators in the state of Mississippi voted Sunday to formally change the official state flag after mounting pressure amid nationwide protests fighting injustice and demanding racial equality. The bill passed in the Mississippi House of Representatives and Senate on Sunday, one day after it made it through procedural votes that required two-thirds majorities in both chambers.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves had previously announced he would sign a bill if it made it to his desk, and now one is on the way. The bill will permanently take down the current state flag, which was adopted in 1894 and included the Confederate battle emblem.
"This is a great day to be a Mississippian," Ole Miss athletic director Keith Carter said on Saturday. "I am proud of all who have had a part in this momentous decision for our state, including the leaders on our own campus that fought hard for what is right. While there is still much work to be done, this is a big step in achieving the welcoming and inclusive environment that our state needs and every person deserves."
"I am really excited to see The Great State of Mississippi, working together to create a flag that everyone can be proud of and rally behind. I look forward to when we Can ALL wave it together!" said Mississippi State coach Mike Leach on Sunday.
The resolution says that a nine-person commission will be created to approve a new design by September. A special election to approve or reject the new flag will be held in November. The new flag design will include the phrase "In God We Trust," according to Mississippi Today. If the resolution doesn't pass, a new flag option will be presented during the 2021 legislative session.
Pressure mounted on the state to change the flag after SEC commissioner Greg Sankey issued a statement earlier this month that the conference would not hold official championship events in the state until it is changed. The NCAA followed suit, saying that it would not hold championship events in states with flags in which the Confederate flag had "prominent presence."
"I am proud of our universities' leadership, and the engagement of student-athletes and coaches in the efforts to change the State of Mississippi flag," Sankey said. "The agreement to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the flag is a positive and appropriate action, and I applaud the Mississippi House of Representatives and Senate for today's action. I am also grateful for Governor Reeves' openness to sign a bill to change the flag. As I have frequently said, our students deserve the opportunity to learn and compete in welcoming environments. Today's action is welcomed in the spirit of this goal."
NCAA President Mark Emmert also was pleased with the change and released a statement.
Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill, the SEC's top returning ball carrier, tweeted on June 22 that he "won't represent the state" until the flag changed. Hill -- a native of Columbus, Mississippi, largely credited with kicking this process into high gear -- tweeted his approval of the resolution shortly after the procedural votes on Sunday.
If you From Mississippi you felt this one ❤️ 🤞🏾— Kylin Hill (@H_Kylin) June 27, 2020
Coaches from around the state, including Leach and Ole Miss' Lane Kiffin, descended on the state capitol in Jackson on Thursday lobbying for legislators to change the flag.