The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo has changed its policy this year to disallow the Confederate battle flag to be used in events and activities.
"The Northern Virginia battle flag is one of those icons that has unfortunately been embraced by individuals and organizations that are advancing hate and intolerance," said Matt Brockman, publicity manager for the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. "We have been receiving complaints about it."
Brockman also said, "It's a difficult decision, but about a couple months ago we decided our policy be that for any official stock show activity – whether that be the parade, the grand entry, merchandise sales – that the use of the Confederate flags be limited to the original national flag of the Confederacy."
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Brockman said the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is deeply rooted in history.
"We have been around 120 years. We understand history, we understand tradition. Six flags have flown over the state of Texas, including the flag of the Confederacy. Texas was one of the original seven states that seceded," he said. "For many years we have posted colors in our grand entry for our rodeo performance, and we utilize that national flag of the Confederacy with the seven stars and the two red bars and one white for many years. So we felt like it would be appropriate to extend that policy to our Stock Show activities"
He went on to say, "We feel like it fits in with Texas' role in the secession from the Union, but also does in a way that we feel is appropriate."
Event participants, like those taking part in Saturday's parade, will not be allowed to display the flag, including groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Members, like Calvin Allen, who first started taking part in the parade in the 1980s, disagree with the decision. They say the battle flag is a symbol of the ancestry and heritage, and they don't believe it represents racism or hate.
"It's just recognition of our ancestry. It was an act of Congress in the Eisenhower Administration that Confederate veterans, Confederate soldiers are considered U.S. veterans and have all the rights that any U.S. veteran had as far as marking their graves and respect, anything like that," Allen said.
He said he'll honor the new policy and likely not carry a flag while in Saturday's parade.
"It's kind of like telling any of those cowboys that go to that rodeo that they can't wear their cowboy hat," Allen said. "Well, that's what they are telling us about our battle flag, and it doesn't represent hate. There were blacks who fought for the Confederacy."
Allen is also currently in talks about possibly erecting a large flag pole on his property along Interstate 20 in Hudson Oaks, where he said the plan would be to fly a Confederate battle flag. It's only in the initial stages, under discussion, but the idea is the flag pole could be as tall as 60 to 80 feet. He said those behind the idea would have to raise money first, possibly around $20,000.
Allen also said it could be the first in this area, but the discussion is to place them in other areas of North Texas as well.
"To recognize our heritage because we don't want it to be swept under the rug and be forgotten – those soldiers served their country," he said.