SEC Media Days – Bonner Asks Mullen About State Flag

Surprise! Surprise! MSU beat writer questions Mullen about state flag; newspaper’s flag obsession continues in Birmingham

Tuesday afternoon, it was MSU head coach Dan Mullen’s turn before the hundreds of media, from all over the South and nation, gathered in Birmingham for the annual SEC Media Days. After being asked more than a dozen questions about the Bulldog football program and upcoming season, the next-to-last question was asked by Michael Bonner, The Clarion-Ledger’s beat writer for MSU. None of the other reporters asked Mullen about the state flag, but to nobody’s surprise, Bonner asked Mullen about it. The newspaper has already reported the position of Mullen, head basketball coach Ben Howland and the university on their view that the state flag should be changed. If you think that Bonner was not told by his editors to ask the question, please contact me about the island I have for sale in the Gulf of Mexico.

The next morning, Wednesday, Bonner’s story about Mullen and the flag appeared at the top of the front page, the news front page, not the sports section. In the first paragraph of his Wednesday article, Bonner wrote the flag debate “reached SEC Media Days Tuesday.” It reached the event because Bonner asked the flag question. For some strange reason, the other reporters only asked Mullen about the Bulldog football program and the SEC – the purpose of SEC Media Days. The story also noted in Mississippi State’s official response on the flag a week earlier, MSU president Mark Keenum noted in 2001, when the statewide referendum on the flag was held, the MSU Faculty Senate voted overwhelming to change the flag. Let’s face it. The faculty senate at MSU or almost any other university would vote for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders for president.

After Bonner’s front page story, on the sports front page, CL columnist Hugh Kellenberger, previously a beat writer at Ole Miss, took his shot at Mullen on the state flag question. The headline to his column said “Mullen not leading on flag issue.” Mullen is paid a lot of money to win football games at Mississippi State, not to endorse The Clarion-Ledger’s constant drum beating to change the flag. When Mullen was asked about the state flag, by a Clarion-Ledger reporter, Kellenberger wrote in his column that Mullen “totally fell apart.” I watched Mullen’s entire comments at SEC Media Days. In his response to Bonner’s question about the state flag, in no way did Mullen “totally fell apart.” The Clarion-Ledger and others often repeat that the NCAA will not allow postseason events to be played in the state because of the flag.

Despite the ban, we can host NCAA baseball regionals, NCAA softball and women’s basketball.  If the state flag came down tomorrow there is no way the state will ever host a bowl game, NCAA football playoff or be the host site for an NCAA men’s basketball regional. Even when Ole Miss completes it new basketball coliseum, the Rebels and State don’t have the capacity, hotels, or other infrastructure to host an NCAA regional. Jackson has the hotels but the coliseum in Jackson doesn’t have the capacity and is in poor condition. Of course, the in-house cheerleading for Kellenberger’s column was quick. On Twitter CL reporter Clay Chandler said Kellenberger’s column about Mullen “nailed it.” Chandler is an Ole Miss alum and was part of the Dan Jones Mafia for Ole Miss. When the state college board elected not to renew Jones’ contract as chancellor at Ole Miss, Chandler was one of the attack dogs who showed a lot of bias regarding the board decision. As sports writers, both Bonner and Kellenberger should report what the SEC Media Days are about – the upcoming 2015 SEC football season.

Mississippi NAACP official is right

The NAACP in Mississippi has called for changing the state flag. That is certainly the organization’s right. One NAACP leader from the Gulf Coast said, “If Mississippi is going to unite and be one Mississippi — not a white Mississippi and not a black Mississippi, but one Mississippi — that flag needs to be changed…….” I certainly endorse the official’s call for one Mississippi, not a white or black one. Now, when will the NAACP come out for  these changes: let’s don’t have a black USA, a black bar association for lawyers, an association for black journalists, a black legislative caucus in both the U.S. Congress and Mississippi Legislature, a black college football poll, the National Urban League, an association for black accountants, an association for black hotel owners, organizations for black engineers, etc.

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