Sticks banned at Ole Miss, but some Confederate flags still appear
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) _ Most Ole Miss students seemed content to wave some of the 10,000 red pom-poms distributed by the university. Others, like Jeremy Tucker, resorted to holding a poster of the Confederate flag when his stick was confiscated at the gate.
A ban on bringing sticks into Vaught-Hemingway Stadium went into effect for the first time Thursday night for a game against Arkansas that was televised nationally by ESPN.
While the ban does not specifically mention flags, it is obviously an attempt to discourage the waving of the racially charged banners.
``I think it is a cop-out to ban sticks. They are trying to get around our First Amendment right to wave the flag,″ said Tucker, a junior from Gramercy, La.
Tucker was among numerous students waving thick cardboard posters bearing the Stars and Bars. Even without sticks, some others still waved flags.
Jack Wohrman, a sophomore from Memphis, Tenn., said many of those students displaying images of the flag were doing so just because they were told not to.
``We have got a lot of students that are ignorant. They think because they are told to do something, they have to do the opposite,″ Wohrman said. ``They are going against the university. I hope they realize that they hurt Ole Miss.″
Ole Miss senior Paxton Farese, who grew up in Oxford and said he has never missed a home game, said he has put down his flag in support of the Rebels football team.
``I support the Rebels and would rather the focus be on the success of the team instead of a random crowd of fans (waving flags),″ Farese said.
The Rebel flag on campus and at games has been blamed by coaches at some schools in the Deep South, including Ole Miss coach Tommy Tuberville, for hampering recruitment of black athletes. The Confederate battle flag was a rallying point for segregationists during the civil rights struggle.
Last month, Ole Miss became the ninth Southeastern Conference school to ban sticks from their stadiums. The others are Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, LSU, Auburn, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.
University officials said the pom-poms, which were on short plastic tabs and not sticks, were not related to the stick banning, and the timing was just coincidence.
Tuberville has all season urged fans to wear red to games, and the pom-poms were an extension of that, said Mike Clark, the athletic department’s marketing director.
Heather Vinson, an Ole Miss senior from Olive Branch, helped distribute the pom-poms, but with mixed feelings.
``We are trying to show spirit and support coach Tuberville by not waving the flag,″ Vinson said. ``I understand his position, but I don’t think he understands ours. I have been here since I was 3, and for me it is tradition.″