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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Spurrier represents the best of the South (Carolina)

Of all the football coaches to plant his feet firmly on the ground and make a stand against the Confederate battle flag, I might not have put South Carolina's Steve Spurrier at the top of the list.

Raised in Tennessee and revered in Florida where he built his career, Spurrier is the quintessential son of the South, from his easy-going mantra to his "ol' ball coach" persona.

But there he was over the weekend, calling for the Confederate flag to be removed from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds. He said: "I don’t really know anybody that wants it there, but I guess there are a lot of South Carolinians that do want it there.”

Good for Spurrier; better for South Carolina.

Far from a politician, Spurrier proved himself to be a great statesman for a state in desperate need of some goodwill.

I was in college when South Carolina endured renewed criticism over its reluctance to remove the Confederate flag, and thus gave life to the NAACP's boycott of the state's tourism industry and the NCAA's ban in 2001 that prevents the state from playing host to championships. It left an indelible image of South Carolina in my mind, one of a state that willfully embraced a symbol of hate - not heritage - to so many people. Suffice it to say, I won't be vacationing there anytime soon.

With Spurrier inserting himself into the fight to take the flag down, maybe there will be enough momentum within the state to rid itself of this ugly emblem. Spurrier could again show that there is a place for sports in our society other than as a distraction.

The Ol' Ball Coach has a powerful voice in his state, in the South, in sports, and I'm ecstatic that he used it to make such a meaningful stand.

Indeed, Spurrier has proven himself to be a true Southern gentleman.


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