July 10, 2015 / 4:23 PM / 4 years ago

Flag removal opens door for South Carolina to bid for NCAA championships

President of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Mark Emmert speaks during a news conference at the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis July 23, 2012. REUTERS/Brent Smith

(Reuters) - South Carolina can host championship-level college sports events after the Confederate battle flag was removed from the grounds of the state capitol on Friday, National Collegiate Athletic Association President Mark Emmert said.

The state had been barred from hosting NCAA pre-determined post-season competitions while the flag flew at the State House grounds in Columbia.

Calling the flag a “symbol of racism,” Emmert said the removal of the banner “now means that South Carolina can bid to host future NCAA championships.”

The flag came down about three weeks after the fatal shooting of nine black worshippers by a white gunman during a Bible study session at a black church in Charleston.

“The NCAA strongly supports today’s removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State House grounds,” Emmert said in a statement. “This step sends an important message of respect for and dignity of every person.”

Since 2001, the NCAA has prohibited playing pre-selected championships in states where the flag is flown prominently. Some view the banner as a symbol of slavery, while others consider it an emblem of Southern heritage.

The flag, raised on the State House grounds more than a half-century ago, was removed shortly after 10 a.m. EDT in a brief ceremony before several thousand people.

Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn

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