Protesters fly Confederate flag next to NCAA tournament arena in South Carolina

1:09 | College Basketball
Protesters fly Confederate flag next to NCAA tournament arena in South Carolina
Sunday March 19th, 2017

A small group of protesters flew a Confederate flag outside the Greensville, S.C., arena hosting two NCAA tournament games on Sunday. 

The flag was spotted on top of a parking garage, according to the Associated Press. The protesters, who arrived early on Sunday morning and planned to stay through the day's games, told the AP that they wanted fans and the NCAA to notice their presence. 

The Greenville portion of the tournament was originally supposed to be played in North Carolina, but the NCAA relocated those games because of the state's HB2 "Bathroom Bill" law, which discriminates against transgender people.  

Both Duke and North Carolina are scheduled to play at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville on Sunday. 

SI's Jonathan Jones also spotted a few cars flying Confederate flags driving in procession.

The Confederate flag flew outside South Carolina's statehouse until 2015, when the state government decided to take it down after the June murders of nine black churchgoers by white supremacist Dylann Roof in Charleston. Since 2001, the NCAA had refused to hold championship events in the state due to the flag's presence, but it changed its policy after its removal. 

In a statement, NCAA senior vice president Dan Gavitt said the organization was "proud" to host events in South Carolina again, and that it is "committed to assuring that our events are safe and accessible to all." 

The statement continues: "No symbols that compromise that commitment will be permitted to be displayed on venue property that the tournament controls. Freedom of speech activities on public property in areas surrounding the arena are managed by the city of Greenville and we are supportive of the city's efforts."

The NCAA does not host championship events in Mississippi due to the prominence of the Confederate flag in the Mississippi state flag.  

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