FLAGS FURLED

By Staff

Athletic Management, 17.6, October/November 2005, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/am/am1706/wuflags.htm

When the Maryville (Tenn.) Board of Education considered a new safety policy for school-sponsored events this summer, it decided to ban many potentially hazardous objects from the stands, including noisemakers, laser pointers, flagpoles, and flags. As a result, fans were barred from carrying on the longstanding tradition of waving the Confederate battle flag at Maryville High School games. The decision was greeted with an outpouring of both support and criticism, filling newspaper editorial columns and e-mail inboxes for weeks after it was announced.

Although the flag had been dropped as an official school symbol in 1999, local fans had continued carrying their own flags to sporting events. Many area residents argued that it was a tradition worth keeping.

But others who spoke up felt differently. Board member Doug Jenkins told the Maryville Daily Times that his mind was made up after he read an e-mail from Carl Stewart, former Tennessee Class 4A Mr. Football Back of the Year while at Maryville and now a running back at Auburn University. Stewart, who is African-American, wrote, “I spent my four years cringing each time I had to run and like it as the Confederate battle flag waved. I was proud of my school and the school spirit, but I despised being represented by a symbol that stood for minority oppression.”

At Maryville’s football home opener on Sept. 9, spectators obeyed the new rule, though Confederate imagery was still visible in the crowd. Fans wore shirts, hats, and other apparel containing the flag, and one outspoken opponent of the policy even handed out 300 free T-shirts and towels emblazoned with the pattern before the game.