CLEMSON — The ACC has halted its plans to hold its conference baseball tournament in Myrtle Beach, citing failure to reach an agreement on the Confederate flag issue.
In May, the ACC awarded the event to Myrtle Beach for 2011-13, expressing a willingness to look past the NCAA’s ban of predetermined championship events being contested in the state.
On Monday, the league announced it had given the event to Durham, N.C. (for 2011, 2013) and Greensboro, N.C. (for 2012), confirming a report by The State that its plans had changed.
“Our baseball committee and institutional administrators awarded the championships to Myrtle Beach with the understanding that the event had the blessings of all parties within the state of South Carolina,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. “It has become clear this was not the case.
“It’s unfortunate that this miscommunication occurred, and since the original announcement, we have had productive conversations with members of the NAACP. In the end, given the conference’s commitment to diversity, equality and human rights, our institutions have determined that this change should be made.”
The root of the “miscommunication” was whether the NAACP had signed off on Myrtle Beach’s bid for the tournament.
Lonnie Randolph, president of the NAACP’s state chapter, said a local member of the organization provided the ACC and Myrtle Beach representatives with misinformation about the backing of the state and national NAACP branches.
North Johnson, who oversaw the city’s bid as general manager of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans minor league baseball team, said after speaking with Mickey James, president of the Myrtle Beach NAACP chapter, that it was the organizers’ understanding that James and Randolph had discussed the bid.
Randolph denies that conversation took place.
“They had obviously been given some inaccurate information at the outset that stated we were on board with it, and we had never been given an opportunity to address our concerns,” Randolph said.
“I want to applaud the ACC for handling the matter in the very respectable manner that they did... . They saw there were differing, varying views and decided to take another look at the matter with a strong emphasis on equality and things we’d hope everyone in America, two days after the Fourth of July, should still have in our spirit.”
Attempts to reach James were unsuccessful.
According to the ACC statement, the league has followed the NCAA’s policy of not holding predetermined championships since the ban’s inception in 2000.
In 2005, league presidents agreed the ACC would be willing to consider awarding an event to a South Carolina venue provided the host site’s proposal included a plan to work with the NAACP at the local and state levels to ensure a proper environment.
Randolph said the ACC did not contact the state level NAACP before Myrtle Beach was awarded the tournament.
Dialogue between the ACC and the larger divisions of the NAACP began after the May announcement, Randolph said. He said the NAACP did not discuss the threat of protests or boycotts off an ACC event.
“There was no pressure,” Randolph said. “That’s not how we do business. We always use the diplomatic approach first. And when you do that, this is the way things normally turn out.”
Randolph said the ACC was misled along several lines, such as the number of members of the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus who supported the bid.
When Myrtle Beach was awarded the tournament in May, both James and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., the nation’s highest-ranking black congressman, wrote letters to the ACC endorsing Myrtle Beach’s candidacy.
Yet Randolph said only about seven of the caucus’ 32 members backed the bid.
Officials representing Myrtle Beach, Greenville and Charleston were believed to have expressed interest to the ACC in hosting the tournament.
Johnson said he thinks future attempts by S.C. cities to make bids will go in vain until the Confederate flag issue is resolved.
“Our feeling is that as long as the Confederate flag is allowed to fly over state grounds, then no major college athletic events will be held in any city in South Carolina,” Johnson said. “The lawmakers who are responsible for this are costing the state millions of dollars in revenue from these various athletic events — football, basketball and baseball — as no major conference will award their championship games to South Carolina.
“If the flag issue is taken care of, then we will certainly bid in the future.”
Staff writer Ron Morris contributed to this report.