Confederate flag won’t be hanging for game Friday
By Lee Mueller
EASTERN KENTUCKY BUREAU
MARTIN – Unless somebody brings one to the game, the Confederate flag will not
be hanging over what has become a controversial high school basketball game Friday
in Eastern Kentucky.
To defuse a flap over display of the flag in the Allen Central Rebels’ gymnasium,
officials have agreed "to remove any opportunity for there to be any distraction,
be it a flag or a mascot," Floyd County schools Superintendent Paul Fanning
The decision to remove the Rebel symbols for the game was reached this week
after a coach at David School, a small private Floyd County school with only
eight players, attempted to boycott the game.
David coach and athletics director Ned Pillersdorf said the display of Confederate
emblems was a form of taunting to his lone black player. But David’s board of
directors overruled the coach and told him to play tonight’s game.
Officials cannot prevent spectators from bringing in flags tonight, Fanning
conceded ("We have some constitutional issues there," he said), but
Allen Central officials are preparing to deal with any developments.
"We want them to have as normal a basketball game as they can, under abnormal
circumstances," said Fanning, an Alabama native who has been Floyd superintendent
for seven years.
Pillersdorf told a wire service reporter that Allen Central fans last year
waved Confederate flags at a black player on his team while he was shooting
a free throw.
Allen Central athletics director Larry Maynard, however, produced an official
scorebook at a school board meeting Wednesday, indicating David’s black player
never shot a free throw during the game. Pillersdorf disagreed.
By now, however, issues surrounding the debate have stretched far beyond accuracy
"It’s been blown way out of proportion," Floyd County Attorney Keith
Wire stories circulated nationwide have created a "firestorm," said
Maynard, and nearly everyone involved in the controversy claims to be receiving
Maynard says the controversy was ignited last November by former board member
Mickey McGuire "for whatever reason."
Before leaving office last year, McGuire questioned the use of Confederate
symbols at Allen Central High and Allen Central Middle schools, which are located
at Eastern on Ky. 80, near the Knott County line.
"I really feel sorry for the children because they sincerely have no racial
motives and see no racial connotations to that flag whatsoever," said McGuire,
a Prestonsburg lawyer. "Our children don’t know that, because the Floyd
County school system never taught them the strong racial connotations that flag
has almost anyplace else."
Floyd County schools have no black employees and few black students, he said.
"We have been very insensitive to any black students playing against one
of our teams," he said.
Some damage already has been done, Maynard said. "Our kids have endured
negative and venomous attention locally, statewide and nationally," he
told the Floyd board this week.
One student, an Allen Central cheerleader who in an interview referred to her
black friends as "colored," was labeled the "Third-Worst Person
in the World" on a recent cable TV show by commentator Keith Olbermann.
Maynard called Olbermann "an arrogant, elitist bully" for vilifying
a Governor’s Scholar and one of his school’s top students.
"It would appear Mr. Olbermann has never heard of the NAACP — the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People," he said.
Last week, the Justice Resource Center filed a complaint with the Kentucky
High School Athletic Association against the David School’s board of directors.
The Louisville civil rights group praised Pillersdorf’s stand and questioned
whether it was appropriate to subject the black player to that environment.
"I think it’s a question that needs to be addressed by the KHSAA, not
Floyd County," McGuire said. "No black child should have to play in
a game with the stigma of a Rebel flag flapping over them. I think that’s inappropriate
Brigid DeVries, KHSAA commissioner, was unavailable for comment yesterday.
The Floyd board voted this week to ask the school’s site-based council to consider
its symbols again. "If they want to change, they can do that," Fanning
David School principal Emma Kriz said her school condemns all forms of racism,
but will not interfere in Allen Central’s policies.
About 100 people attended the board meeting Wednesday to discuss the issue,
many of them carrying small Confederate flags or wearing Rebel flag stickers.
No one spoke against the display of the Rebel flag.
Samantha Moore, a 2004 Allen Central graduate, said the country has more important
things to worry about — drugs in schools, for example — than a school flag.
"That flag’s been there for over 30 years," she said. "My opinion
is: leave it alone."
Pillersdorf has coached the David team, and paid all its expenses, since it
was organized five years ago.
In its second year of varsity play, however, the team still has not won a game.
The Falcons were 0-14 going into last night’s game at Evarts; Allen Central
Pillersdorf did not appear eager to play tonight.
"Frankly, it wouldn’t break my heart if there was a huge snowstorm tonight
and we had to cancel," he said.