In the hours before a critical decision on a Confederate monument at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a group of prominent athletes issued a joint statement calling it “crisis time” at Carolina.
“We love UNC but now also feel a disconnect from an institution that was unwilling to listen to students and faculty who asked for Silent Sam to be permanently removed from campus,” they wrote in an open letter signed by athletes including Vince Carter and Jerry Stackhouse. The recommendation to return the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam is embarrassing and wrongful, they wrote. “This is crisis time at Carolina, and we feel that a clear shot has been fired. It hurts us.”
The state flagship university is confronting its history. On Friday, the statewide panel that oversees public universities in the state, the University System of North Carolina Board of Governors, will discuss what to do with the Confederate monument toppled earlier this year by protesters. Silent Sam was erected more than 100 years ago to honor students who fought for the Confederacy. Many now call it a racist symbol that has no place on the public university campus.
The university’s board of trustees approved a proposal to build a $5.3 million center to house Silent Sam, saying they would have preferred to move the monument off campus, but they were restricted by state law. The board of governors will consider that recommendation Friday.
Many have spoken out about the proposal, including the student government, the faculty, and more than 150 current and former athletes who signed the open letter.
Early Friday morning a UNC spokesman, Steve Kirschner, confirmed that the statement from prominent athletes is valid.
Spectacular Magazine first reported the statement, written to the UNC community and graduates:
"We write to express our deep concern regarding the recent proposal to erect a building on south campus to house the Confederate Monument (a.k.a. Silent Sam).
"First, to the UNC current athletes: As former Carolina athletes, we recognize the very difficult position current scholarship athletes face in joining a public protest against this representation of white supremacy on our campus. For those of you who decide to speak up and stand with other students, staff and faculty who are against this multi-million dollar investment for the housing of the statue, we applaud your courage and conviction.
"We support your right to express your democratic right of freedom of speech. You should not be fearful of repercussion. We would have liked to have heard the opinion of the athletic department leadership and coaches regarding this disposition of Silent Sam … especially in light of the high number of Black athletes who have participated on the basketball, football and track and field teams over the history of Carolina athletics. Their silence is very glaring and tells us a story.
"We agree with the 500+ member Black Student Movement statement that Black students and faculty are often used by the university as ‘accessories.’ We were a part of that sacrifice and branding. We helped to tell the story that Carolina is the ‘University of the People.’ We love UNC but now also feel a disconnect from an institution that was unwilling to listen to students and faculty who asked for Silent Sam to be permanently removed from campus. The recommendation is embarrassing to us who proudly promote UNC.
"This ‘slap in the face’ is not new to African Americans though.
"We have learned and observed many times in U.S. history whereby institutions turn their backs on marginalized people. Thus, we know this struggle will continue. We make a pledge to stay informed and connected with our voice and resources to activists who will work to bring justice and light to matters at UNC.
"This is crisis time at Carolina, and we feel that a clear shot has been fired. It hurts us like it hurts many of you living and working in Chapel Hill.
"Do know that we hear and support you in your efforts to bring attention to this wrongful decision.
"Hark the Drum!
“Harrison Barnes, Vince Carter, Jerry Stackhouse, Marvin Williams, Danny Green, Tony Bradley, Reggie Bullock, Ed Davis, Wayne Ellington, Raymond Felton, John Henson, Isaiah Hicks, Justin Jackson, Theo Pinson, Ademola Okulaja, J.R. Reid, David Noel, Damion Grant, Kennedy Meeks, Makhtar N’Diaye, Vassil Evtimov, George Lynch, Ed Geth, Quentin Thomas, Leslie McDonald, Justin Watts, Brendan Haywood, Terrance Newby, Joel James, Brice Johnson, Deon Thompson, Brian Ellerby, Chelsea Townsend, Hayley McCorkle, Travis Bond, William Sweet, J.K. Britt, Keith Beasley Jr.. And more … as communications go forth across the network.”