A group of protesters raised a Confederate flag on a parking garage next to Bon Secours Wellness Arena outside the second-round of the NCAA Tournament games in Greenville, South Carolina.
After the home-state South Carolina Gamecocks upset a powerful No. 2- seed Duke, Gamecocks’ head coach Frank Martin took a moment to respond to the protester’s actions.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s America. And you think we all agree on everything? Our state is united. Our state believes in peace and harmony. That’s why this event is being held in our state right now. Our state’s progressive. Our state has incredible people about moving forward.
“But it’s America. We have freedoms. People have freedoms to do whatever they want to do with themselves and their property. It is what it is.
“There’s things out there that I don’t like. But I can’t force people to do what I want them to do. All I know is this unbelievable university and state has taken in a son of Cuban immigrants that’s married to a Jamaican woman, has mixed kids, and they’ve treated me like I’m one of their own from day one.
“I wouldn’t want to coach in any other state or on any other group of people, for any other bosses than the ones I’ve got. Our alums, our community is a beautiful, beautiful place. It’s a united state. Unfortunately, things like that happen, but we live in the United States of America. And we don’t all agree on things.”
Why it matters
The flag display is significant given that South Carolina was just recently named a tournament host. The regional round was originally slated to be played in Greensboro, North Carolina, but the NCAA opted to relocate the games after the state passed a discriminatory law (HB2). Greenville was able to host the games only because the state of South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from statehouse grounds after the massacre at Charleston’s historic Emmanuel AME Church resulting in the death of nine black Americans.
So what do you say, coach?
Martin’s response is significant too, and it’s not all perfect. Most of his answer sort of shoulder shrugs at the issue, like a big “welp! what do you do?” But he also realizes it’s personal, and that’s the message that resonates.
All I know is this unbelievable university and state has taken in a son of Cuban immigrants that’s married to a Jamaican woman, has mixed kids, and they’ve treated me like I’m one of their own from day one.
Beyond that, he sort of misses the point. It’s no secret that Martin coaches a primarily black team. This warrants a professional response (at the minimum). Something to the effect of addressing how those symbols might be received by his team, his team’s family members, the 29-percent of the university’s black student body.
Instead, we got the coach-speak analysis of first amendment rights and patriotism. Well, there’s this good thing in our country, but there’s also this bad thing. I’ll be hopeful about the good thing. Go team.
Bruh. You just upset Duke. The whole state loves you. You had a free pass to go whichever way you wanted on this matter and you took the middle lane at 35 mph. Yes, it’s probably too much to assume you would have said anything that distracted from your team’s historic run. But if you want to write history, sometimes you gotta set the record straight.