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Rival Mississippi college football coaches join petition to bar Rebel Flag

By Doug G. Ware
Rival Mississippi college football coaches join petition to bar Rebel Flag
The Mississippi flag flies over the state capitol in Jackson. Photo: Rob Hainer / Shutterstock

JACKSON, Miss., Aug. 16 (UPI) -- They might be rivals on the football field but they're on the same team with this issue.

Mississippi football head coach Hugh Freeze and Mississippi State leader Dan Mullen both had their names listed in a local newspaper Sunday as part of a petition to bar the controversial Confederate mark from the state flag.

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The names appeared in the Clarion-Ledger, along with hundreds more -- including novelist John Grisham, former NFL quarterback Archie Manning and actor Morgan Freeman.

"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 full-page open letter says. "It's time for Mississippi to fly a flag for all its people."

The coaches might, in fact, be the best-known people on the list -- as college football is extremely popular in the South. Especially in view of the fact that Mississippi State and Ole Miss were ranked in the top 10 for most of last season -- and were even rated No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, at one point.

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Other signees of the open letter include Mississippi businessman Jack Reed, Sr., former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale, music legend Jimmy Buffet, former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Ford, Grammy-winning producer Glen Ballard, Basketball Hall of Famer Bailey Howell, former Gov. William Winter, and baseball legend Boo Ferriss, the Clarion-Ledger reported.

"The Confederate flag is no longer a viable state or national symbol in 2015," the letter's author, Greg Iles, said.

Earlier this summer, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed legislation to remove the so-called Rebel Flag from the state capitol complex -- a move that was mostly applauded, but some oppose the idea because they view the Confederate symbol as a mark of southern heritage.

National outcry over the controversial flag erupted again in June when a gunman murdered nine people at a historic black church in South Carolina. A suspected white supremacist, the gunman was later seen in photos featuring the flag's symbol.

The Clarion-Ledger cited a recent survey in which 64 Mississippi lawmakers favored changing the flag, 24 rejected it, nine were undecided, and the remaining 96 didn't respond to the poll.

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Mississippi is the only remaining state that flies the Confederate flag over its state capitol.

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