Steve Spurrier may be the most well-known man in South Carolina. He’s also one of the most respected voices in the entire state and that voice has become a bit of a rally-cry over the past week following the shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
Although Spurrier has yet to publicly discuss the Charleston massacre, comments the long-time South Carolina coach made in 2007, condemning the use of the Confederate flag across the state, are once again starting to make waves.
Here’s what you need to know about Spurrier’s stance on the flag and its future in South Carolina:
1. Spurrier Said He Didn’t ‘Really Know Anybody That Wants’ the Confederate Flag Flying Over the Capitol
Spurrier’s comments about the Confederate flag came in a 2007 press conference after the Gamecocks spring game when he discussed his displeasure with the symbol. An Associated Press transcript read:
I realize I’m not supposed to get in the political arena as a football coach, but if anybody were ever to ask me about that damn Confederate flag, I would say we need to get rid of it. I’ve been told not to talk about that. But if anyone were ever to ask me about it, I certainly wish we could get rid of it
The South Carolina coach originally voiced his displeasure with the flag during an awards banquet from City Year, when, according to an ESPN report, Spurrier was less-than-pleased that the flag had been prominently featured during an ESPN broadcast of Game Day ahead of a South Carolina-Tennessee game. Video of the banquet catches Spurrier saying the TV spot was marred “by some clown…waving that dang, damn Confederate flag behind the TV set. And it was embarrassing to me and I know embarrassing to our state.”
2. South Carolina’s School President, Athletic Director & Both Basketball Coaches Also Spoke Out Against the Flag
Spurrier isn’t the only prominent South Carolina athletics figure to express their displeasure over the Confederate flag. The school’s athletic director, Ray Turner, tweeted his support of the flag’s removal on June 22 and recently graduated quarterback Connor Shaw echoed the sentiment:
Basketball coaches Dawn Staley and Frank Martin added their own support on social media as well. This isn’t the first time that SC athletics has fought the flag either. Spurrier’s predecessor Lou Holtz called for the removal of the symbol in April, 2000, even participating in a 120-mile march from Charleston to Columbia, when the NAACP started a boycott of the state.
The NCAA has also prohibited the state from playing host to championship events that are scheduled in advance since 2011 because of the Confederate flag. That ban came under fire earlier this year when the South Carolina women’s basketball team hosted NCAA games because of the new format of delegating home dates to the top-16 teams.
3. The Confederate Flag First Flew Over the South Carolina Capitol in 1961
The massacre at the Emanuel AME Church has rekindled the long-standing debate over the Confederate flag and its place in South Carolina’s history.
The flag first flew above the Statehouse in 1961 as a clear response to desegregation following the Brown v. Board of Education decision. It was moved to the front of the Statehouse in 2000, after decades of controversy, as part of a compromise among state leaders and installed at a Confederate memorial on the grounds of the Capitol.
While the controversy surrounding the flag, particularly in the wake of Dylann Roof’s actions, is unquestionable, there are still those who support the flag as visual history. Dean Stevens, a member of South Carolina’s division of Sons of Confederate Veterans, told USA Today:
(The flag) is a monument to a group of men who fought for their homeland to save their families from a group of military soldiers invading a sovereign state. I can’t change someone’s opinion on the way they perceive falsehood. It’s an icon that stirs emotion in people whether they know what they’re talking about or not.
4. Spurrier Met Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Who Was Killed in The Charleston Shooting, in April
Spurrier met with Rev. Clementa Pinckney in his office in the South Carolina State Senate in April. Pinckney, who began ministering when he was 13, was killed by Dylann Roof during the shooting at the Emanuel AME Church last week.
Pinckney was elected to the State Senate in 200. He was part of the South Carolina legislature since 1996 and was the youngest African American to ever assume the position when he was initially elected at the age of 23.
5. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley Called for the Removal of the Flag From Capital Grounds
Although she stayed away from the controversial topic of removing the flag during her 2014 reelection campaign, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley officially called for the flag to be taken off the grounds of the Capitol on Monday.
She made the statement during a news conference:
Today, we are here in a moment of unity in our state, without ill will, to say it is time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds. The murderer, now locked up in Charleston, said he hoped his actions would start a race war. We have an opportunity to show that not only was he wrong, but that just the opposite is happening. My hope is that by removing a symbol that divides us, we can move our state forward in harmony, and we can honor the nine blessed souls who are now in heaven.
The South Carolina General Assembly’s session ended on June 4 but, according to NBC News, lawmakers are meeting on Tuesday to pass a budget compromise, which can extend the session and force debate on the removal of the Confederate flag.
The flag can only be removed from its location in front of the State legislature with approval of two-thirds of that same group. Haley said if the legislature does not convene she would call lawmakers to the capital “under extraordinary measures.”
Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott were also with Haley at the time of the press conference and many top South Carolina positions have called for the Confederate flag to be removed in the wake of the Charleston shooting.