Kylin Hill Refuses to Play For Mississippi State Unless Flag is Changed

Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill has warned he will not play for the university again unless the state flag is changed.

Mississippi is the only U.S. state whose flag includes the Confederate symbol and has come under intense pressure to remove it at a time when sport leagues and states are re-examining their relationships with the Confederate flag and its troubled history.

Earlier this month, NASCAR banned the symbol from all its racetracks, while last week the NCAA, Southeastern Conference (SEC) and Conference USA ruled out hosting championship events in Mississippi until the Magnolia State changes its flag.

Hill, who the led the SEC in rushing yards last season with 1,350, is the latest athlete to wade into the debate and call for change.

"Either change the flag or I won't be representing this State anymore," Hill tweeted in response to a tweet from Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves over plans to change the flag. "I meant that ... I'm tired."

Either change the flag or I won’t be representing this State anymore 💯 & I meant that .. I’m tired

— Kylin Hill (@H_Kylin) June 22, 2020

The Bulldogs star rusher immediately received support from Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach, who defended his player's right to speak out on social issues.

"The biggest thing is that Kylin is entitled to his opinion just like everybody is," Leach was quoted as saying by the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger.

"If Kylin chooses to express his opinion, I think he should if he wants to. I think he definitely should because all opinions on all issues should be heard. I think that's where we run into trouble in particular—the dialogue isn't quite what it should be.

"Not everybody is listening to one another, and I think we have to get to that point. I applaud Kylin's right to express his opinion really on any subject."

Last week, Leach and Mississippi State University president Mark Keenum both supported SEC commissioner Greg Sankey's decision to ban Mississippi from holding championship games until the state flag is changed.

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death of George Floyd on May 25, SEC teams have come under intense pressure to deal with statues, symbols and songs that may have racial undertones.

Last week, Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond called for the university to remove a statue of former Texas governor and former Texas A&M president Lawrence Sullivan Ross, who served as a brigadier general for the Confederate Army during the Civil War and had to be pardoned by President Andrew Johnson to avoid prison.

Meanwhile, the Florida Gators parted ways with their popular "Gator Bait" chant citing "historic racist imagery associated with the phrase."

Away from the SEC, earlier this month Texas Longhorns athletes called for the University of Texas to discontinue the use of "The Eyes of Texas" as the school song and to rename four buildings on the Austin campus that are named after men who either promoted racial segregation or were prominent Confederate figures.

In the same week, Clemson trustees voted in favor of removing John C. Calhoun's name from the school's honors college after a petition racked up over 20,000 signatures—including those of Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who both played college football at Clemson.

Calhoun was a vocal advocate of slavery, famously describing it as a "positive good" rather than a necessary evil and Clemson's campus sits on the site of Calhoun's Fort Hill Plantation in South Carolina.

Newsweek has contacted Mississippi State University for comment.

Mississippi State, Kylin Hill
Kylin Hill #8 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter of their game against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns at Mercedes Benz Superdome on August 31, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Michael Chang/Getty