North Carolina basketball Coach Roy Williams said Friday that the university should not re-erect the “Silent Sam” statue on the Chapel Hill campus, calling the Confederate monument “divisive.”
“In my own personal belief, I think that it would be best for it to not be here,” Williams said, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. “And I think some of those people in the decision-making business would rather it not be here, but the only people that can change that are the ones who can make the laws, and I haven’t spoken to those people about it.”
After years of protests focused on the monument, erected in 1913 to honor students who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War, demonstrators tore it down in August, shortly before the start of the university’s academic year. The pedestal on which it stood has remained empty since, and the university’s board of trustees approved a plan earlier this month to house the statue in a new $5.3 million history center on campus.
This week, a group of more than 200 current and former Tar Heel student-athletes — including basketball greats Vince Carter, Jerry Stackhouse and Harrison Barnes, and current players K.J. Smith, Garrison Brooks, Brandon Robinson and Sterling Manley — sent a letter to university leaders urging them not to display the statue at the institution.
“A monument to those who fought and killed to keep Black people enslaved has no place on our campus,” the letter read. “White supremacy has no place on our campus.”
According to the News & Observer, Williams said he told players they had a right to sign on to the letter.
“I talked to our guys about it and told them if they feel strongly about it, go right ahead,” said Williams, who is also North Carolina alum. “I think it’s their individual rights, and I think they should, if they feel strongly about it.”
The university system’s board of governors rejected the proposal on Friday.
“It’s a very divisive thing, and I hate that we have anything divisive on our campus, or involved in our institution,” Williams said, according to the News & Observer.
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