University of South Carolina coach Frank Martin said he was disappointed the Confederate flag was flown by a small group of protesters outside the NCAA tournament games held in Greenville, South Carolina, on Sunday.
Fans who attended the two games Sunday were greeted by a large Confederate flag in the parking garage next to the arena.
The group of demonstrators raised the flag from the trunk of a pickup truck presumably because the South Carolina statehouse was forced to stop flying it or the NCAA tournament would not have games in the state at all.
Martin addressed the issue in his postgame news conference Sunday night after his team upset Duke, 88-81, reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time in the history of the program.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s America,” Martin said, USA Today reported. “You think we all agree on everything? Our state is united. Our state believes in peace and harmony. That’s why this event is being held in our state right now. Our state is progressive. Our state has incredible people that’s about moving forward.
“But it’s America. We have freedoms,” he added. “People have freedoms to do whatever they want to do with themselves and their property. It is what it is.”
“There are things out there that I don’t like. But I can’t force people to do what I want them to do,” Martin continued. “All I know is this unbelievable university and state has taken in a son of Cuban immigrants that’s married to a Jamaican woman, has mixed kids, and they’ve treated me like I’m one of their own from Day 1.”
“I wouldn’t want to coach in any other state or with any other group of people, for any other bosses than the ones I’ve got,” he concluded. “Our alums, our community is a beautiful, beautiful place. It’s a united state. Unfortunately, things like that happen but we live in the United States of America — and we don’t all agree on things.”
The Confederate flag was removed from the South Carolina statehouse following a hate crime shooting in 2015 that left nine members of Charleston’s Emmanuel AME Church dead.
The NCAA issued a statement regarding the presence of the controversial flag: "The NCAA is proud and excited to host championships in the state of South Carolina once again. We are committed to assuring that our events are safe and accessible to all. No symbols that compromise that commitment will be permitted to be displayed on venue property that the tournament controls. Freedom of speech activities on public property in areas surrounding the arena are managed by the city of Greenville and we are supportive of the city's efforts."
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