Hugh Freeze and Dan Mullen publicly supported changing Mississippi's state flag by signing their names to a newspaper advertisement that appeared in The Clarion-Ledger on Sunday.
The full-page letter called for Mississippi to remove the Confederate emblem from its state flag. The rebel symbol appears in the top left corner of Mississippi's flag, making the Magnolia State the only remaining state to fly a flag reminiscent of the Confederate battle flag.
“It is simply not fair, or honorable, to ask black Mississippians to attend schools, compete in athletic events, work in the public sector, serve in the National Guard, and go about their normal lives with a state flag that glorifies a war fought to keep their ancestors enslaved,” the letter said. “It's time for Mississippi to fly a flag for all its people.”
The Confederate flag drew renewed public scrutiny after nine African-Americans were shot and killed on June 17 in a Charleston, S.C., church by 21-year-old Dylann Roof, who embraced the flag as part of his white supremacist ideology.
Freeze, football coach at Ole Miss, spoke about his distaste for the Mississippi flag during SEC Media Days in July. Mullen, Mississippi State's football coach, was also asked about the flag during Media Days, but did not take an explicit stance at the time.
“Being a Mississippian I have a great appreciation for the Mississippi people and the pride we have in the heritage,” Freeze said. “Unfortunately that symbol has been hijacked by some groups that mean ill-will towards some people. While I'm not a political figure I strongly believe it is time we move in a different direction and change the flag. Hopefully that'll happen.”
Mississippi citizens voted not to change the flag after a referendum in 2001, but public opinion may be shifting 14 years later. In a Clarion-Ledger survey, 64 Mississippi lawmakers said they would support changing the flag, 24 were opposed, nine were undecided and 96 did not respond.
Hall of Fame quarterback Archie Manning, who played for Ole Miss from 1968 to 1970, also signed the letter. Other notable signatures belonged to Jimmy Buffet, author John Grisham, actor Morgan Freeman, The Help author Kathryn Stockett, former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson and many others.
- Erin Flynn