- The Washington Times - Friday, March 31, 2000

Serena Williams has come out against the Confederate flag that flies on the Statehouse dome in Columbia, S.C.

Her courage is remarkable.

"I'm not going to support anything that's putting down my race," Williams says.

Organizers of a tennis tournament in Hilton Head next month do not really want to put Williams or her race down. If anything, to help the gate, they would like to see Williams advance deep into the tournament, if not win it, and they would be eager to cut her a fat check.

But there is a higher principle than money at stake in South Carolina, and Williams may skip the tournament to avoid the hint of being put down.

At least that is her contention, and she is sticking by it.

A social conscience apparently is contagious, even among sports types who barely know the history of their games, much less American history.

As for their training camp in Charleston next season, the Knicks say, "Hell no, we won't go."

Latrell Sprewell might not attend training camp anyway, regardless of where it is held. He undoubtedly is upset he didn't think of the Confederate flag after showing up late to training camp last fall.

As Sprewell says, "I wasn't choking P.J. I mean, P.J., he could breathe."

Breathing is important if you're to have a social conscience.

Jeff Van Ankle Weight is still breathing, although he has that deathly pall about him.

To some, the Confederate flag is a symbol of pride. To others, it is a symbol of oppression.

If you have been properly trained by Oprah, you are obligated to be sensitive to both views.

Columbus was the greatest oppressor of them all. Fortunately, he is dead.

American history is no longer fashionable on the campuses of universities that pretend to be elite. Americans now learn their history from Kevin Costner and Oliver Stone. The former dances with wolves, the latter with conspiracies. It beats lecturing for a living, and pays better, too.

Sports figures don't usually make good martyrs. They are accustomed to sacrificing their bodies, not their agents, accountants, lawyers, egos, cell phones and seven-figure paychecks.

Where have you gone, Jackie Robinson and Curt Flood?

Fortunately, Columbus, who started it all, is still dead.

This is history with a new millennium twist.

Thomas Jefferson, who also is dead, is best known today as a practitioner of "Jungle Fever." Spike Lee probably is working on "Jungle Fever, Part Deux" at this moment.

South Carolina is certain to remain a hostage of the NAACP until the flag comes down. Seceding from the union is the alternative. But then, that already was tried.

Not much, sports-wise, happens in South Carolina, including Lou Holtz's football team.

Henry Dickerson, coach of the Chattanooga basketball team, raised the flag/ boycott issue with his players before the Southern Conference tournament in Greenville earlier this month. None elected to boycott the event, despite Dickerson's offer of support.

A guilty conscience sometimes buttresses a social conscience, although to be fair, the guilty are not streaming back to Europe, leaving behind their five-bedroom homes, 3.2 cars and nannies.

Perhaps that is because Columbus, by whatever means necessary, is as dead as ever.

Nothing rallies the troops like a flag.

The protesters of the '60s used to burn the stars and stripes between tokes on their bongs, if they were not wearing the stars and stripes on their fannies. They eventually joined the establishment, became fat and bald and made bad television shows about their heightened awareness.

Except for the Confederate flag, things are going pretty good in America. You can save the whale or boycott South Carolina. They don't have the time and resources to do that kind of meaningful stuff in Calcutta and a lot of other places.

The sports types probably should be careful around the supporters of the Confederate flag.

Those people buy Nike shoes, too.

As Dan Rather used to say, "Courage."

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