Usually by this time of the year, the University of South Carolina men’s basketball team have long hung up the jerseys and are tuned in to March Madness like the rest of us.
Not the case this year.
The No. 7 Gamecocks find themselves in Phoenix playing in the Final Four after going 44 years without winning a single tournament game. I covered the Gamecocks’ 1st and 2nd round wins in Greenville, SC and found myself pondering, as many others, how many South Carolinians balance their desire for the South to “rise again” with supporting a team led by minorities and coached by the son of Cuban immigrants who happens to be married to a Jamaican woman.
The Confederate flag has long been viewed as a symbol of hatred and racism. That didn’t stop it from being flown brazenly outside of Bon Secours Wellness Arena as fans filed in to watch the NCAA games, including the home state Gamecocks. Ironic considering NC was stripped of NCAA games due to HB2 and the NCAA’s “commitment to fairness and inclusion”.
Vashti Hurt of “Carolina Blitz” asked Coach Frank Martin about his thoughts on the matter.
It’s unfortunate, but it’s America. And you think we all agree on everything? Our state is united. Our state believes in peace and harmony. That’s why this event is being held in our state right now. Our state’s progressive. Our state has incredible people that’s about moving forward.
But it’s America. We have freedoms. People have freedoms to do whatever they want to do with themselves and their property. It is what it is.
There’s things out there that I don’t like. But I can’t force people to do what I want them to do. All I know is this unbelievable university and state has taken in a son of Cuban immigrants that’s married to a Jamaican woman, has mixed kids, and they’ve treated me like I’m one of their own from day one.
I wouldn’t want to coach in any other state or on any other group of people, for any other bosses than the ones I’ve got. Our alums, our community is a beautiful, beautiful place. It’s a united state. Unfortunately things like that happen but we live in the United States of America. And we don’t all agree on things.
The fact that those who will proudly fly the Confederate flag will be some of the loudest, most boisterous fans when the Gamecocks take the floor in both Phoenix and Dallas (the women have advanced to the National Championship game) is not lost on me. While those same fans protest racial equality, they take no issue with African-Americans as entertainment; physically advanced specimens with raw athletic talents.
Those young black men are cheered for on the court but scoffed at when they expect equal opportunities off of it. They’re stereotyped and classified as lazy, expecting handouts, etc….unless they’re wearing a uniform. Even then, they better not dare take a stand for justice or demand equality or they risk the chance of being “Kaepernicked”, or shunned, for demanding social justice.
As the Gamecock teams take the floor this weekend, they’re playing to bring a Championship back to a state that seems to only appreciate them when they have a ball in hand.
Flip the page to hear Frank Martin’s comments on the Confederate flag flown at Bon Secours Wellness Arena during the tourney.