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From the Archives: 2000 Spring Break Boycott

This spring break, several of Haverford’s athletic teams will travel for embark on training trips and away games before the spring athletic season gets underway. The women’s lacrosse team will travel to Colorado, the women’s tennis team will fly to Florida, as will men’s baseball, and the men’s tennis team will travel to Puerto Rico for their spring break. While these teams are scheduled to travel in the next few days, in 2000, three Bi-Co athletic teams did not even get off the ground. A case that calls to mind the September confederate flag controversy at Bryn Mawr College, these sports teams cancelled their trips after deciding to boycott the Confederate flag flying about the South Carolina state Capitol. Read more about it in this February 2000 article from the Philadelphia Inquirer!



February 4, 2000 – Philadelphia Inquirer

Three Philadelphia-area colleges have canceled spring training trips to South Carolina by their sports teams, joining a boycott over the Confederate flag that flies above the state Capitol.

The Haverford College women’s tennis team was the first to cancel out, making its decision late last week, choosing not to play six matches it had planned for next month in Hilton Head, S.C. Bryn Mawr’s tennis and lacrosse teams, which were also supposed to be bound for Hilton Head, then decided to join the boycott.

“As I told the Haverford folks, we’re on their side,” Malick said. “We very much understand what Haverford is trying to say. We’ve been trying to say the same thing for a good while.”

Training in South Carolina “would be a violation of Haverford’s long tradition of respect for all individuals,” Greg Kannerstein, the school’s athletic director, said in a letter to Tennisaction. He added that the school did not want “to contribute to the tourist economy of a state which shows its disrespect to a large segment of its citizens through the flag it flies over its [Capitol].”

A factor in Haverford’s decision was that the NAACP had called for a nationwide travel boycott of South Carolina to protest the Confederate flag waving above the Capitol.  A newspaper in the capital city, the Columbia State, reported Sunday that 91 organizations, from church groups to professional associations, had moved meetings out of South Carolina.  Last month, the National Association of Basketball Coaches backed a call from the Black Coaches Association to ask the NCAA to remove the 2002 South Regional of its Division I men’s basketball tournament from Greenville, S.C.

On Martin Luther King’s Birthday, nearly 50,000 people were involved in an anti-flag march in Columbia.

As Malick noted, the vast majority of schools that had planned trips to Hilton Head are going ahead with them. All made their plans before any call for a boycott. Many, including Philadelphia University, already have made financial commitments.

“Certainly, while I understand the cause economically, it’s a good place for us to go,” said Tom Shirley, the Philadelphia University athletic director, who said his school’s men’s tennis team would play six matches over six days in South Carolina.

“Our kids fund-raise [to pay for the trip],” he said. “To tell them they have to raise an extra 300 bucks because of the Confederate flag – I don’t know if it would be fair, to say that’s the reason you can’t go. There are a lot of issues we are very concerned about. Gender equity. Title IX. We pick certain issues.”

Students, he said, are the school’s customers.

“We need to service our customers,” he said.

Ann Koger, the Haverford women’s tennis coach, who has taken her team to Hilton Head in the past, was the first at her school to bring up the idea of skipping the trip this year.

“Just speaking for me personally, I think [the Confederate flag is] an extremely offensive symbol to African Americans, and I am African American,” she said. “Whenever I think of the flag myself, I think of the Civil War, slavery, and all the things that happened to my people and other people.

“It’s flown – and not just in South Carolina. You can ride the streets of Philadelphia and see people with Confederate license plates and Confederate screening in the window of their car. That’s personal. But to fly the flag over the state Capitol, that’s another matter.”

 Kannerstein said Haverford’s top administrators had discussed the idea of canceling the trip and agreed on the merits of it.

“I think the issue then became, well, when do you make such a stand?” he said.

Koger said she had canceled a match with the Savannah (Ga.) College of Art and Design, scheduled as part of the same trip, because Georgia has a Confederate-flag inset in its state flag. Kannerstein said that the college had supported her decision but that a boycott of events in Georgia wasn’t an official school action.

Koger talks of taking her team to Hilton Head again if the flag comes down.

Amy Campbell, the athletic director at Bryn Mawr, a women’s school, said that after “a pretty thorough discussion with both coaches and the team members,” the tennis and lacrosse teams had decided last week to cancel their trips.

“It’s a teaching moment for all of us,” Campbell said.

Dave O’Brien, the Temple athletic director, said his men’s tennis team – which, according to Malick, had only one match planned for Hilton Head – would not be going there.

John Chaney, the Temple men’s basketball coach, has been outspoken in talking about the need for the flag to come down.

“We need to be supportive both in word and deed,” O’Brien said of his school’s opposition to the flag.

Malick said that he was upset that the schools had not contacted him to find out what the people in Hilton Head were doing about the issue and that the schools were backing out of commitments to play when it might not be possible to reschedule matches.

“Our whole point is they’re shooting in the wrong direction,” Malick said.

“The Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce, the hospitality association, the mayor and town council, and our local legislators have all been 100 percent in favor of getting the flag down from the Capitol.”

Florida is probably the most popular spring site for college teams from the East Coast. But South Carolina also is a hot spot, because teams from the Northeast can typically drive there and stay there more cheaply.

“It’s popular for students over spring break,” Bob Williams, the Swarthmore athletic director, said of the state. “The real attraction for the athletic teams is the availability of facilities. Coastal Carolina is one of the only schools that far south that no longer charges a fee to use their track.”

 Williams said that when he learned that Haverford and Bryn Mawr had decided not to go, “I contacted my provost, and I’m looking to the administration for some guidance. We’ve made some pretty firm travel commitments in terms of reservations at the site. But we’re looking at the situation. We’re certainly sensitive to what’s going on.”

At Philadelphia University, four of the men’s tennis team’s top six players who will be going to Hilton Head are students from India, Morocco, Croatia and Tunisia.

“They may not even know there is a Confederate flag,” Shirley said.

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