Winston-Salem State’s Thursday football practice ended with the usual instructions, for the most part. Players were told to get their rest before Friday’s bus trip to Richmond, what to wear on the bus and to bring their books. They also received a somber warning that was likely necessary in light of recent events.
“Remember what we saw in Charlottesville a couple of weeks ago,” WSSU SID Kevin Manns told the team after practice. “That could very well happen in Richmond.”
Three HBCU football teams will be competing in Richmond on the same day as a planned rally in support of the city’s Robert E. Lee monument, organized by The New Confederate State of America, a group based in Tennessee. The Sons of Confederate Veterans, a local group, says the rally is simply a bunch of out-of-towners looking to stir up trouble.
— Anna-Lysa Gayle (@ABC7Annalysa) September 14, 2017
Howard is set to take on the University of Richmond on Saturday in Mike London’s return to the school which he helped lead to the FCS national title in 2008. A few hours later, Virginia Union is set to host visiting WSSU in the inaugural Willard Bailey Classic.
Col. Carlton G. Edwards, Virginia Union’s Police Chief, released a statement through the university on Thursday warning students and fans about the events expected to take place.
“It is my recommendation, and that of the university, that you avoid Monument Avenue and Broad Street beginning tonight through Sunday,” Col. Edwards wrote. “This is out of concern for your safety and your right of free speech and peaceful assembly. The VUU Police Department is closely monitoring information and plans put in place by city and state authorities. This event is not expected to be a safe environment of free expression.”
Safety In Numbers
WSSU head coach Kienus Boulware re-iterated Manns’ words when he addressed the team as well, imploring his team to stick together.
“If you catch yourself in the elevator with somebody with a scarf on or something like that just hi-five ’em, don’t give ’em no attitude or lip,” Boulware said. “We’re gonna be as peaceful as possible. We’ve got a game to play, we don’t want to jeopardize ourselves.”
It is a warning that wouldn’t have happened a year or even six months ago, but now three HBCU football teams find themselves playing in a city where the next big conflict regarding Confederate monuments could take place.