Protesters flew a large Confederate flag atop a parking garage just feet from a South Carolina arena hosting NCAA Tournament games on Sunday.
Members of the South Carolina Secessionist Party mounted the flag on a pickup truck that was parked at a garage next to Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville.
According to WYFF, the group wanted to send a message to the NCAA as well as state lawmakers. South Carolina state congress is currently debating a controversial bill that would use state money to house a Confederate flag in a museum.
High profile teams like North Carolina and Duke played games in Greenville on Sunday. The flag flew from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
2017 marked the first time in 15 years that the NCAA allowed the South Carolina to host tournament games. In 2001, the NCAA announced the state could not host tournament games until it removed a Confederate flag flying at the state capitol building in Columbia.
The NCAA allowed the state to host already scheduled tournament games in 2002, which went on amid protests from the NAACP.
The state removed the Confederate flag from the capitol in 2015, following the murder of nine African Americans at the hands of white supremacist Dylan Roof.
Dan Gavitt, an NCAA senior vice president of basketball released the following statement to ESPN on Sunday.
"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."
The tournament games were originally scheduled to take place in North Carolina. However, the NCAA has said it will no longer host postseason events there until the state repeals its controversial bathroom bill, which requires transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender listed on their birth certificate.
Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.
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