- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2005

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Black activists are upset by a purple-and-gold version of the Confederate battle flag waved by some Louisiana State University fans at sports events.

The modified banner is popular with many LSU students.

“It represents two different things that I’m proud of,” said sophomore Harper Hollis, referring to Southern heritage and the state’s largest university.

Isaac Netters, a New Orleans native who is coordinator of black student affairs at LSU, said he noticed the modified flag image as early as 1996, when he was a freshman at the school. He said he isn’t angered by it.

“The people that fly these flags, they really believe they’re celebrating their heritage,” he said, adding that there is no doubt the flag is a hot campus issue.

Blacks make up about 10 percent of the student body at the Baton Rouge campus, and many of them are unhappy with the flags.

“It says that my school promotes that movement — bigotry, basically,” said Steve Brockington, a black student from Ville Platte.

LSU’s new chancellor, Sean O’Keefe, is communicating with black student leaders about the issue, and recently posted a statement in an “Issues & Answers” section of the LSU Web site (www.lsu.edu).

“In this great nation and at this great university, we are free to express ourselves. We need to defend this right of free speech,” the statement says. “As such, we cannot and will not ban or prohibit the display of symbols. To do so would impede and inhibit free speech. But that doesn’t mean we should sanction irresponsibility. We cannot accept intolerance or actions that are designed to provoke racial divisiveness and hatred.”

“We need to send a strong message to those within our family and those visiting our campus that LSU does not condone or support the display of this symbol,” the statement adds.

LSU doesn’t allow the sale of the Confederate flag on campus. The university also is sending out letters to vendors reiterating a position taken years ago that LSU does not permit use of its name or “proprietary colors” in selling such flags.

It remains to be seen how such a warning will affect shops such as Tyger Gifts in Metairie, which sells a purple-and-gold version of the Confederate flag for $30. Shop owner Grace Bankston said 11 of the flags have been sold since they were made available through a Nebraska company in October.

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