Georgia Flag Protest Targets Super Bowl

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Organizers of a protest against flying the Georgia state flag at the Super Bowl say they intend to use the controversy to press for removal of the Confederate battle symbol from the flag before the Summer Olympics begins here in 1996.

There is little chance that the flag will not flutter over the Georgia Dome on Sunday because state policy requires its use on state property and state officials and the NFL have declined to intervene.

But the raising of the flag will enable demonstrators to "send the resounding message that we still have a lot of unfinished business of the civil rights movement to do," said state Sen. Ralph David Abernathy, son of the late civil rights leader.

"We are asking for the nation and the world to join us in this fight to remove this Confederate swastika from Georgia's flag," he said.

Abernathy, who has introduced another in a series of flag-change measures in the Georgia General Assembly, said protesters "will be organizing with the African nations . . . to demonstrate, protest and, if necessary, boycott the Olympics because of this symbol of disrespect and separatism that is embellished in this Georgia flag."

Georgia incorporated the Confederate symbol in its flag in 1956 as an act of defiance against federal school-integration orders.

Last year, Gov. Zell Miller urged that the symbol be removed from the flag, but the General Assembly defeated the proposal.

Abernathy, along with several other black legislators, recently wrote a letter to National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue asking that the flag be barred from Sunday's game.

"This abomination of racist symbolism should not be a part of nor associated with an event regarded . . . as a wholesome, family-oriented program," the letter said.

But Charles Lunsford, heritage chairman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said "people who come here from around the country and around the world don't think anything bad about it at all."

Mayor Bill Campbell told the Associated Press on Thursday that there are more pressing issues, such as jobs and education, crying out for attention.

"I have yet to hear anybody in the community tell me the flag flying there is going to affect their lives at all," said Campbell, who is black. "You can spend your life fighting a symbol and miss the important things."

Defensive end Bruce Smith of the Buffalo Bills said he and his teammates don't like the idea of playing under the Confederate symbol, but he planned to focus on football.

"Racism exists, period," said Smith, who is black. "It's unfortunate. It's ignorance. It offends me."

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