MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Hundreds of WVU athletes, coaches, administrators and community members turned out at the Coliseum on Sunday evening, hoping to bring awareness to racial and social issues plaguing the United States.
Beginning outside the Blue Gate next to the Jerry West statue, members of most WVU sports marched down Patteson Drive, turning right onto University Avenue and again onto Evansdale Drive before ending at the turf rec fields outside of the College of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences. Many held signs, chanted and walked in solidarity as passerbys beeped their horns to show support.
The WVU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) organized the march in support of the Black athletes in the wake of several incidents involving police officers and Black men over the last four months. The rally asked athletes to take a pledge in support of inclusion, equality and change.
Tangela Cheatham, WVU’s director of student-athlete enhancement, helped introduce several speakers at the rec fields, including three football players — senior safety Osman Kamara, senior receiver T.J. Simmons and senior linebacker Josh Chandler.
Kamara, Simmons and Chandler are on the SAAC committee.
“On behalf of the WVU football team, I want to thank you all for coming out,” Kamara said. “We’re united for change, I want to thank you all for showing unity.”
Similar to his Saturday interview, Simmons told athletes to use their platform, in comparison to other students, to promote change.
Chandler, the campus liaison for SAAC, wants to help bridge the gap between athletes and regular students, as well as between athletes and athletic administrators.
“Today is not the only day we will do this — we will do different events to try and get the message to the community moving forward,” he said.
“Let’s rock out.”
Athletes also received an email on how to register to vote in West Virginia, ahead of November’s election. Cheatham wanted to make it clear, though, that the presidential election is not the only thing that will be decided.
“This year is a very important year in our nation,” she said. “There are a lot more positions that we are voting for this year other than president. We are not here today to tell you who to vote for or what to vote for — we’re telling you to vote.
“Your voices matter and your voices need to be heard.”
Delegate Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, gave a passionate speech prior to the group returning to the Coliseum.
“I stand with you in unity and solidarity,” she said. “We must acknowledge our past so we can stand in our present, so we can be the change we want to see in the future. When we say, and we exclaim, and we wear, and we hashtag #BLM — Black Lives Matter — we are not saying only Black lives matter. We know all lives matter, but we need some help because we know Black lives are in danger. We need some help because Black lives are being stolen. We need help because Black lives matter. I matter. My sons matter. These Black athletes matter. These Black staff matter. Black lives matter.
“That is a fact today. So as we stand in solidarity, we must stand together. We took a stand when George Floyd could not breathe. We took a stand when more and more Black lives were being taken. So now, I need you to walk with me in one love. Hate has no home — here, there or anywhere.”