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How Sports Figures Are Using The Media To Take Down The Confederate Flag


On the evening of September 17, 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof allegedly gunned down nine worshipers at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

They were attending a Wednesday night bible study.

Roof was arrested in Shelby, North Carolina, and after he reportedly admitted to the murders, the attention immediately shifted to discovering as much information as possible about this individual.

That search led to the conclusion that the Columbia, South Carolina native, who allegedly told authorities he was looking to incite a race war, was fueled by hatred and racism.

And in many of Roof’s social media posts, he was often pictured branding some form of the Confederate flag.

A symbol that, for so many in this country, serves as an everlasting reminder of racism and slavery.

The Confederate South lost the Civil War, but for some reason, the flag of stars and bars was allowed to endure.

It’s endured outside bars and homes and most notably, at the South Carolina state capitol building.

But one place it will not endure is in sports.

In the wake of our nation’s most recent tragedy, Americans from all walks of life have been outspoken and involved in an effort to eradicate the Confederate flag from display in the United States.

And one of the most impassioned, insightful and vocal groups on record has been the athletic community.

From Ben Watson to Dale Earnhardt, Jr., here’s how our nation’s sports figures are using the media to help banish a painful reminder of slavery, oppression and hate.

On June 23, the same day South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state house, New Orleans Saints tight end Ben Watson took to Facebook to explain why our reasoning for removing the flag is just as important as the act itself.

He said,

While the flag’s banishment – not just from the South Carolina state house – is necessary, it’s more important everything it stands for dies with it.

SEC basketball coaches John Calipari and Frank Martin, of Kentucky and South Carolina, respectively, have also been vocal about the need for the Confederate flag to play no further part in US history.

This past Monday, during an SEC coaches conference call, Calipari was asked about the flag. He tweeted his response.

Martin, who perhaps felt more scrutinized because of his employment at the University of South Carolina, said,

He tweeted the following message.

US track star and Olympic gold medalist Natasha Hastings is also tied into the South Carolina community, as an SC alum.

The 28-year-old sat down with ESPNW to talk about what the Confederate flag stands for in her eyes.

She also tweeted her thoughts on the flag’s removal.

Similarly to Ben Watson, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin also took to Facebook to voice his thoughts on the current controversy engulfing our country, though his post was directly pegged to a picture of a group of white people painting a giant Confederate flag in his hometown of Pensacola, Florida.

Baldwin said,

Thanks to the words of Baldwin and others, hopefully, there will soon be little to no pride associated with the Confederate flag.

NFL players and college coaches advocating the removal of the Confederate flag is one thing, but the most surprising voice in sports to lobby for the cause has been that of NASCAR; a professional racing organization that is based in the South and has a predominantly southern fanbase.

Recently, NASCAR chairman Brian France spoke about doing everything he could to remove the flag from his sport.

He said,

For years, the Confederate flag has flown freely from trailers and trucks at NASCAR’s infields, but France says that will soon be a memory.

And in case you think France is simply a talking head who isn’t in touch with the pulse of the sport, star driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has similar sentiments.

The 12-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver and two-time Daytona 500 winner said,

Thankfully, it doesn’t end there.

There have been plenty of other sports figures who have weighed in on the Confederate flag’s removal, including newly-appointed South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier, WWE announcer John “Bradshaw” Layfield and southern ESPN personalities Marty Smith and Ryan Mcgee.

Over the last few years, athletes have used the media, both traditional and social, to speak out on gay marriage, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Ferguson, Freddie Gray and the Arizona immigrant law, but there appears to be no greater galvanizing cause than the Charleston massacre and subsequent fight to ban the Confederate flag.

According to reports, there’s enough support within the South Carolina Legislature to remove the Confederate flag from state capitol grounds, but it remains to be seen if and when the controversial symbol will be taken down.

If history is any indication, unfortunately, this will not be the last time the athletic community must rally on the heels of tragedy to act as a catalyst for change. Hopefully, though, we begin to see more results and fewer causes.