New SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and several league basketball coaches supported removing the Confederate flag from conference campuses and athletic facilities.
Speaking on the summer SEC men’s basketball teleconference, Sankey reiterated a statement the league office released Wednesday supporting governors from South Carolina and Alabama in ordering the removal of Confederate flag from state offices.
“Our athletic programs provide a key rallying point for our state and our region and we want to make sure they are a welcoming circumstance as much as that’s possible when you’re a visiting team in our arenas and stadiums,” said Sankey, who replaced Mike Slive officially on June 1. “Let’s make our campuses welcoming for all who are on our teams and populating our campuses.”
South Carolina men’s basketball coach Frank Martin echoed statements made by football coach Steve Spurrier and athletic director Ray Tanner in support of removing the Confederate flag.
Although the flag represents something positive for many, Martin said, the battle flag remains offensive to other groups and should not be displayed on government grounds.
“We can’t just embrace one side and say to heck with the other group,” Martin said. “That’s why I think there’s a place for that flag in people’s private homes and in museums that represent the Confederate states and history of South Carolina, but not in public places. Government buildings are a representation of all of our people and not just some of our people.”
Martin also said the Confederate flag never came up as a barrier in recruiting. The Miami native and former Kansas State coach also called South Carolina the most "unified" state he's lived in.
"It’s important that the message gets out there that the people of South Carolina are absolutely beautiful," Martin said. "The way they’ve reacted to difficult times shows the amount of love that this state has."
Kentucky’s John Calipari, the league’s most visible basketball coach, also supported removing the Confederate flag from public grounds.
“Sure,” Calipari said. “They offend, and I would say do it (remove them).”