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Olympic Trials Overshadow Flag Flap

February 26, 2000

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ The Confederate flag, which seemed to loom large over the U.S. women’s Olympic marathon trials this week, barely waved over Saturday’s race.

A few runners wore red, white and blue ribbons to protest South Carolina flying the flag over its Statehouse. But officials said there were no visible disruptions or demonstrations along the race course.

And as the horn sounded the start, the flag _ normally snapping in the breeze a few blocks away _ was wrapped tightly around the flag pole for no one to see.

``It seems very appropriate for that to happen,″ said Craig Masback, head of USA Track and Field, who wore a protest ribbon.

His organization condemned the flag on Feb. 14, but said to remove the trials would be disruptive to runners. Masback and other officials stayed in North Carolina to support the NAACP’s boycott of South Carolina.

At the beginning of this year, the NAACP began lobbying for the cancellation of sports events.

``For many Americans, the Confederate flag is a symbol of subjugation and segregation,″ the USATF said.

Several athletes looked for ways to show their support.

Beverly Buss of Pasadena, Calif., wore the ribbon so she could be a ``silent supporter,″ and express her belief that the flag should not fly over the Statehouse.

Kristy Johnston, who finished second on Saturday, wore a frayed tricolor ribbon. When the race was over, she said she had prayed she would be in position to speak out against the Confederate flag.

``I think that we’re always progressing to the good. I respect the boycott,″ she said. ``I hope people realize that if this was going on while they were considering Columbia a year and a half ago, for sure officials would have reconsidered.″

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