The NCAA expanded its Confederate flag policy on Friday to prohibit all its championship events from being held in the states where the flag is flown.
Mississippi is the only state affected by the policy change. It is the only state flag that continues to feature the banner of the Confederacy -- a blue cross with 13 white stars.
"There is no place in college athletics or the world for symbols or acts of discrimination and oppression," Michael V. Drake, chair of the NCAA board of governors and Ohio State president, said in a statement. "We must continually evaluate ways to protect and enhance the championship experience for college athletes. Expanding the Confederate flag policy to all championships is an important step by the NCAA to further provide a quality experience for all participants and fans."
The NCAA's previous policy, which was enacted in 2001, applied only to predetermined championship sites. At the time, it affected both Mississippi and South Carolina. But in 2015, South Carolina, following the murder of nine members of the historically black Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, stopped flying the Confederate flag at its state Capitol and was therefore allowed to host NCAA championship events again.
The NCAA policy now includes all championship sites, including those awarded based on competition like baseball, softball, lacrosse and women's basketball.
"Competing in an NCAA championship is a special experience for college athletes who compete at the highest level and we are grateful for the college athlete voice leading to this decision," NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. "We must do all we can to ensure that NCAA actions reflect our commitment to inclusion and support all our student-athletes. There can be no place within college sports where any student-athlete is demeaned or unwelcome."
The NCAA's statement comes on the heels of SEC commissioner Greg Sankey coming out against the Mississippi state flag Thursday night, threatening to not hold the conference's championship events in the state as long as the flag remains unchanged.
In 2001, Mississippians voted in a referendum to keep the current flag. But this week, in the wake of nationwide protests against racism, Mississippi legislators again proposed a bill that would remove the Confederate symbol from the flag.
Several state universities, including Mississippi State and Ole Miss, stopped flying the flag in 2016.
Both SEC institutions issued statements in support of Sankey following his announcement. In a joint statement, Ole Miss chancellor Glenn Boyce and athletic director Keith Carter said, "We support the SEC's position for changing the Mississippi State flag to an image that is more welcoming and inclusive for all people."
Conference USA, which is home to Southern Miss, also said Thursday night that it will review its championship hosting policies "to ensure we provide environments that align with our continued mission to support and protect our student-athletes."
Commissioner Judy MacLeod's statement didn't specify Mississippi or the flag but did note "symbols and individuals that represent horrific injustices of the past."
The Golden Eagles are slated to host the 2022 conference baseball tournament.