Recently the media reported the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) threat to ban post-season college football and baseball contests—post-season basketball has already been banned—from South Carolina unless a replica of the Confederate flag is removed from statehouse grounds. The initial media accounts were superficial, reporting only the basic facts while ignoring the larger issues involved. I waited for subsequent reports that might present a broader view of the matter but such reports were not forthcoming.
The absence of such reports is unfortunate because the NCAA’s threat is an example of an organization that has moved away from its prescribed activities in order to engage in trendy politically correct pursuits. And it raises questions regarding not only the NCAA’s mission and authority but also the competence of its administration as well as the soundness of its decisions.
First a brief background. The Confederate flag flew above the South Carolina statehouse for several decades without any complaints. One black South Carolinian claimed that he drove past the statehouse twice a day, going to and from work, for over twenty years and never noticed the flag. But in 1999, the South Carolina chapter of the NAACP, apparently feeling it needed media exposure to increase its dwindling contributions, threatened a tourism boycott of the state unless the flag was removed from the dome of the Capitol. Much to the NAACP’s annoyance, there was no outpouring of support for the boycott from the state’s black population. And the boycott had no noticeable impact on the state.—Tourism actually increased.
However, the legislature still voted to relocate the flag from the Capitol dome and on July 1, 2000, a smaller version of the flag was placed beside the Confederate Soldiers’ Monument on statehouse grounds. The Confederate Soldiers Monument was a creation of the Daughters of the Confederacy to honor South Carolina soldiers who lost their lives in the War Between the States. Although a relatively small monument, it is a touching and reverent structure, a befitting tribute that stands as a constant reminder of those who lost their lives in that conflict. Descendants of those dead soldiers still have pictures, letters and other mementos of those brave young men. And it is appropriate that a replica of the Confederate flag will wave beside this somber monument.
In addition to relocating the flag, the South Carolina legislature also authorized the creation of an African-American Monument on statehouse grounds; the first monument of its kind in the United States. This is no ordinary monument, not only because of its size but also its contents. It contains 12 large bronze plaques depicting the plight of African-Americans in South Carolina from the middle passage to the arrival in Charleston all the way to their achievements in the contemporary period. Visitors can casually stroll through the monument’s walkways or sit on the many benches available and contemplate the scenes depicted.
Many naïvely thought that removing the flag from the dome of the Capitol and constructing the African-American Monument would end the matter. But the NAACP had gotten too much publicity out of the flag episode to simply let the matter drop. So, as long as it could maintain the support of a compliant media, the organization pressed its demands for additional concessions.
What the compliant media does not report, but surely must know, is that the NAACP no longer speaks for the majority of blacks. Soon after the flag episode, when the South Carolina chapter of the NAACP met to elect officers, there was widespread dissatisfaction with the organization’s priorities expressed by its own members. As one attendee stated: “There are more important issues than the flag. We need a new strategy.” Members then highlighted issues that the NAACP was not addressing: threats to the black community posed by gangs; illegal drug activity and other criminal activities, quality of healthcare, school dropouts by black males, and the breakdown of black families. The reason the NAACP does not address these issues is because they are pandemic and difficult to solve. Also, these issues don’t produce the passionate media coverage that attacking Confederate flags and other Southern heritage symbols do.
But rank and file NAACP members made their disillusion with the state organization clear, an organization which they describe as little more than a “social club.” And an opposition candidate, representing those desiring a change in the NAACP’s direction, came within 16 votes of unseating the entrenched leadership of the state organization.
Until fairly recently, media has never questioned the NAACP’s claim that it has over 500,000 members nationally. But The Baltimore Sun wondered why this membership number had not changed in 60 years. When pressed, NAACP leaders first stated that 300,000 members might be more accurate. Finally, the organization confessed that it has only 178,000 members, roughly one-third of the routinely quoted figure. To put this in perspective: As the black population is roughly 38 million, this means that less than one-half of one percent of African-Americans are dues-paying members of the NAACP. This is another indication that the NAACP no longer speaks for the majority of blacks.
The NCAA’s threat to South Carolina resulted from a demand from black coaches. They claimed they had received complaints about the Confederate flag, but the NCAA did not investigate the claim to determine the validity, volume or intensity of the purported complaints. It simply made the politically correct knee-jerk response by demanding the flag’s removal.
This is not the first time the NCAA caved in to demands from black coaches. Black coaches had earlier maintained that the NCAA’s toughened freshmen eligibility requirements, established primarily by standardized testing, unfairly discriminated against black and Latino athletes. The NCAA responded by lowering academic admission standards for freshmen athletes. One disgruntled member of the NCAA’s eligibility committee stated: “ We basically gutted the initial-eligibility standards because of the racial issue. This will allow lesser academically qualified individuals to enter college.”