The NCAA announced Friday that its Board of Governors has expanded a policy preventing championship events being played in states where the Confederate flag has a "prominent presence."
Under the expanded rule, no championship events will be held in such states. Previously, the rule allowed for "nonpredetermined" championship events like baseball and softball regionals as well as the first and second rounds of the women's basketball championships to take place in such states. Those events would not be permitted to take place in Mississippi under the NCAA's expanded rule unless the state changes its flag.
Mississippi is the only state currently affected by the NCAA's policy, according to Friday's announcement. The expansion of the policy comes amid renewed debate over the Mississippi state flag, which prominently features the Confederate symbol.
"Competing in an NCAA championship is a special experience for college athletes who compete at the highest level and we are grateful for the college athlete voice leading to this decision," NCAA president Mark Emmert said. "We must do all we can to ensure that NCAA actions reflect our commitment to inclusion and support all our student-athletes. There can be no place within college sports where any student-athlete is demeaned or unwelcome."
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey announced Thursday that the SEC will reconsider hosting any championship in Mississippi until the state flag is changed. Leaders at Ole Miss and Mississippi State responded by reiterating their support for changing the state flag following Sankey's announcement.
The timing of Friday's expanded policy from the NCAA also coincides with the observance of Juneteenth, which commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States. The date has risen in prominence this year in the midst of a national awakening over racial inequality.
"There is no place in college athletics or the world for symbols or acts of discrimination and oppression," NCAA Board of Governors chair Michael Drake said. "We must continually evaluate ways to protect and enhance the championship experience for college athletes. Expanding the Confederate flag policy to all championships is an important step by the NCAA to further provide a quality experience for all participants and fans."