South Carolina pol wears Confederate flag shirt at community event

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South Carolina pol wears Confederate flag shirt at community event

A South Carolina councilman is facing calls to resign after he wore a T-shirt featuring the Confederate flag at a community event for black and Hispanic kids.

Greenville County Councilman Lynn Ballard made the questionable wardrobe choice Friday as he worked at a garden alongside volunteers from nonprofit group Upstate Circle of Friends, which works to improve the lives of at-risk children, especially black and Hispanic youngsters.

Ballard was photographed at the event next to the group’s executive director, George Singleton, who is black, while wearing the shirt that read: “Used but not used up.”

The councilman’s duds also featured a motorcycle and a woman in lingerie, a photo posted to Facebook shows.

Singleton said Ballard had called out for him to get in the shot, but had no idea of the councilman’s choice of attire. Ballard later reached out to apologize, but he should also issue a public mea culpa, according to the nonprofit executive.

“I would not have taken the photo if I was aware, but I would have taken appropriate action with him and confronted him about the offensive nature of it,” Singleton said in a statement.

“I appreciate all our volunteers, but from here forward we will make sure that our volunteers respect our community and the families that reside there.”

Ballard was volunteering at a garden for the nonprofit group Upstate Circle of Friends.
Ballard was volunteering at a garden for the nonprofit group Upstate Circle of Friends.
Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The garden in Greenville’s Belle Mead section is also in a predominantly black neighborhood, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The Washington-based advocacy joined Singleton in calling on Ballard to publicly apologize.

Reached for comment Wednesday, Ballard told The Post he intends to address the T-shirt at a council meeting next Tuesday. The Missouri native first elected in 2014 did not elaborate, but he claimed to the Post and Courier he didn’t even realize what was on his shirt at the time.

“I didn’t even know there was a damn Confederate flag on there,” Ballard told the newspaper. “The shirt says ‘Used but not used up’ and it shows a guy restoring an old motorcycle. I didn’t even realize there was a Confederate flag on the shirt.”

Ballard had the offending shirt on beneath another garment that he took off when it got too hot, he told the newspaper. He posted the photo on his Facebook profile, but it’s since been deleted.

“The spinach in the first two beds is growing well and a third bed was planted today,” Ballard recalled in another post. “Nothing is more rewarding than planting a garden, watching it grow, and reaping the fruits of your labor.”

Ballard claimed that he didn't realize the shirt had a Confederate flag on it at the time.
Ballard claimed that he didn’t realize the shirt had a Confederate flag on it at the time.
DenisTangneyJr

But Bruce Wilson, a black activist seeking a state House of Representatives seat, said no apology will suffice and called for Ballard to step down.

“You can’t wear that kind of shirt to a predominantly black community in a black neighborhood and think that’s OK,” Wilson told the Post and Courier. “And it shows guilt that he now just took it off his Facebook page. It’s just sad.”

Ballard appeared to dismiss Wilson’s call to step down — saying he has seven grandchildren, four of whom are of mixed race.

“The other three are all Hispanic,” Ballard said. “It would not behoove you to try to paint me as a racist.”

But some in Greenville flatly disagreed, claiming there’s little left to discuss.

“It’s disgusting that government officials think it’s OK to support the Confederacy’s heritage of hatred,” resident Jason Short wrote in a reply to Ballard’s garden photo. “This is 2022 not 1822. Resign.”

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