Yolett ‘Coach Yo’ McPhee-McCuin.
Over the weekend, Bahamian collegiate coach Yolett “Coach Yo” McPhee-McCuin was a part of a movement in the United States that will forever be etched in the annals of American history.
The Confederate flag is coming down in the state of Mississippi. The Bahamian women’s basketball head coach at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) was among 46 other coaches and administrators from around the state in the capital city of Jackson, to offer their support to the extinguishment and removal of the flag. Mississippi is the final state in America to have the flag, which has been termed abusive and divisive, taken down as a symbol of national recognition.
McPhee-McCuin said she by no means takes credit for any action to have the flag officially removed, but she is proud and privileged to be a part of the process.
“Collectively, state legislators from the House and the Senate came to the agreement that the state flag needs to be abolished. It’s no longer going to represent the state of Mississippi and that’s a step in the right direction,” said McPhee-McCuin. “This has been a fight that has been ongoing for a number of years and we were just privileged to come in at the back end and offer our support. Through sports, and college basketball, we’re able to help catapult the movement to finish it off. People have been working tirelessly at trying to get this flag down. It is divisive and a symbol of hate, so I feel really blessed to be a part of this. This is something that I could tell my daughters about in the future – that I was a part of this movement. This is a historic moment – the day that Mississippi decided to get rid of the Confederate flag.”
Legislators voted on Sunday to have the flag, which has been condemned as racist, removed. The House passed the bill to change the flag by almost a 4:1 count. The Senate followed with almost a 3:1 count. The current flag must be removed within the next 15 days, and a vote on the new flag, which cannot include the Confederate symbol and that must have the words “In God We Trust” on it, will be taken in November. If the majority accept the new design, it will become the state flag. If it is rejected, a new flag will be designed using the same guidelines.
McPhee-McCuin said the coaches and administrators were all on one accord, and were a part of a much larger gathering of groups inclusive of business, community and religious leaders, who stood against racism in the United States. She said legislators’ hands were forced after Southeastern Conference (SEC) Commissioner Greg Sankey made a bold stance that no postseason games, or any type of tournament play, would take place in the state of Mississippi until the flag was taken down.
“That right there is millions and millions of dollars and opportunities being affected. That was a big deal for us, and kind of pushed things forward,” said McPhee-McCuin. “Various chancellors from schools in the state of Mississippi got involved and the flag came down. We can’t take much credit, but we could say that we were a part of that last 50 meters in a long marathon and I’m grateful to be a part of that.”
The issue of the flag being taken down was on the table for decades, but recent protests of systemic racism in the United States following the death of African American George Floyd at the hands of police, sparked a revisitation on the status of the 126-year-old banner. White supremacists in the Mississippi legislature set the state flag design in 1894, during backlash to the political power that African Americans gained after the civil war. Legislators set a flag election in 2001, and voters kept the rebel-themed design.
This past weekend, a historic move was taken and McPhee-McCuin was a part of a process that brought about an accomplishment that had been debated and fought for, for decades.
As far as her team is concerned, third-year Ole Miss Rebels Women’s Basketball Head Coach McPhee-McCuin said that they are involved in voluntary workouts, but the status and format of the season remains up in the air given the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re not allowed to have team meetings and practices until July 20, but according to her, everything appears to be moving in the right direction and she remains optimistic. Just recently, they were a part of peaceful protests against systemic racism and social injustice in the Unit