COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- South Carolina could lose the chance to play host to future NCAA tournament events if lawmakers fail to remove the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse dome.
The NCAA's executive committee voted Friday to cancel future NCAA-sponsored events in South Carolina unless the flag is removed before the committee meets again Aug. 11.
Flag opponents, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, say the banner is a symbol of racism. Supporters say it honors Confederate veterans and is a symbol of Southern heritage.
Charles Wethington, NCAA executive committee chairman, said the flag creates ''an intolerable environment'' for many athletes and coaches.
The executive committee's resolution reads: ''Should South Carolina fail to take action on this matter before the NCAA's executive committee meeting August 11, 2000, the committee will take action at that time to cancel all NCAA-sponsored events in South Carolina until the flag is removed from the Statehouse.''
That means the 2001 men's and women's cross country championships and the 2002 men's basketball South regional, both scheduled in Greenville, would be moved if the Legislature fails to remove the flag.
The decision would affect only NCAA events and would not affect individual school schedules or conference tournaments.
The state Senate earlier this month passed a bill to remove the flag and fly a similar banner in front of the Statehouse at a monument honoring Confederate soldiers. The bill was approved this week in the House Judiciary Committee and is headed for debate on the House floor.
The Legislature, which has sole authority to remove the flag, adjourns June 1.
Wethington said the resolution was not intended to dictate how the Legislature should resolve the issue, but that ''our response does refer to the flag on top of the Statehouse.''
That means the NCAA would accept the Senate plan.
The NAACP, which has instituted a tourism boycott of South Carolina until the flag is removed, said the Senate plan does not go far enough. NAACP leaders say the flag must be removed entirely from the Statehouse grounds.
Still, the executive director of the NAACP's South Carolina Conference of Branches, Dwight James, joined other flag opponents in praising the NCAA's action.
Republican House Speaker David Wilkins of Greenville, a flag supporter who is leading efforts to get the bill passed, said he didn't think lawmakers would be swayed by the NCAA decision.
''It is my belief that the General Assembly will resolve the flag issue with honor and dignity and finality this year,'' Wilkins said.
The NCAA's decision comes less than two weeks after its baseball committee decided not to exclude South Carolina and Clemson from consideration as regional hosts this year. Wethington said the executive committee's decision would not affect events scheduled this spring.
Earlier this month, Serena Williams withdrew from the Family Circle Cup tennis tournament to support the NAACP boycott. Last month, Penn State baseball players wore armbands to protest the flag during their series at Winthrop and said they would schedule no more games in South Carolina until the flag comes down.
On the Net: http://www.ncaa.org
Flag opponents: http://www.getinstep.com
South Carolina Heritage Coalition: http://www.kudzumedia.com/schc.htm
Sons of Confederate Veterans: http://wwww.scv.org
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.