COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) – The Confederate flag flying at the South Carolina Statehouse will be lowered forever Friday morning at 10, and the economic sanctions the state has been under will be lifted. Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law Thursday at 4 a bill to remove the Confederate flag from its place at the Confederate Soldier Monument, where it’s been flying for 15 years.
That bill flew through the legislature after nine people were shot to death in a Charleston church last month after Bible study. 21-year-old Dylann Roof has been charged with the murders. Photos that were later found online show him holding the Confederate flag, burning the US flag, and a manifesto thought to be written by him is full of white supremacist views.
The NAACP has had an economic boycott in place against the state for more than 15 years, since before the Confederate flag was moved off of the Statehouse dome as part of a compromise in 2000. The NAACP says flying the flag at the front of the Statehouse put it in an even more prominent location.
The NCAA also put economic sanctions in place against the state in 2001, not allowing it to host any pre-selected tournaments. There’s no way to know how much that cost the state, since it’s impossible to know how many tournaments the state might have been awarded if the sanctions were not in place.
But the USC women’s basketball team was allowed to host the first two rounds of games in this year’s tournament in March, based on the team’s record and ranking. That’s not considered a pre-selected tournament site. The Columbia Regional Sports Authority estimated that hosting those games had an economic impact of $1.3 million, as visitors bought tickets to the games, stayed in hotels, ate in restaurants, shopped, and visited other attractions like museums.
NCAA Board of Governors chair Kirk Schulz released a statement Thursday saying, “We commend South Carolina lawmakers for taking this action to remove the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds. For nearly 15 years we have specifically protested the flag by not allowing states like South Carolina to host pre-selected NCAA championships. With this impending change, and consistent with our policy, South Carolina may bid to host future NCAA championships once the flag no longer flies at the State House grounds.”
That means Greenville or Columbia could bid to host events like men’s and women’s March Madness basketball tournament rounds, which would mean millions for the state’s economy.
Beth Paul, general manager of the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, said Thursday, “In 2002, we were honored to host three rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament. Due to the boycott against South Carolina from the NCAA, our arena, as well as all others in the state, have been unable to bid on additional NCAA events. Now that the NCAA has rescinded the ban on South Carolina, the Bon Secours Wellness Arena looks forward to the opportunity to bid on future NCAA events.”
State Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Ted Pitts says there’s no way to know how much money South Carolina has lost because of the economic sanctions over the flag, but says, “South Carolina needs to recruit the top workforce, the talent from around the country, and I think having that flag on the Statehouse grounds would have affected decisions. And actually I’ve had people tell me in the recruiting industry that it has affected some decisions as people look to move their families to South Carolina. When you look at the goods and services produced by South Carolina manufacturers, I believe it ultimately would have affected the revenue stream generated from sales outside of South Carolina. And I just think in general the business community is thankful the General Assembly and the governor addressed this issue so quickly.”
The NAACP says it will vote this weekend at its national convention on an emergency resolution to rescind the economic boycott of South Carolina that’s been in place because of the Confederate flag.