On Dec. 4, members of the Board of Trustees gathered for a meeting regarding the future of Silent Sam. Chancellor Carol Folt unveiled the board's proposal to keep the statue on campus, in a "University History and Education Center," according to the report distributed from the meeting.
The UNC-system Board of Governors meets on Friday and is expected to discuss the plan moving forward with the controversial monument. In the hours before that meeting, Vince Carter, Jerry Stackhouse and other former UNC athletes issued a joint statement calling it "crisis time" at UNC.
As reported by The Washington Post, the open letter signed by Carter and Stackhouse, two long-time NBA players, denounced keeping Silent Sam on UNC's campus.
"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. This is crisis time at Carolina, and we feel that a clear shot has been fired. It hurts us."
Carter and Stackhouse were just two of the latest people to voice their concerns after graduate teaching assistants have withheld 2,300 final grades in protest of the proposal, according to the last count given by organizers.
Multiple open letters have circulated, including one with faculty members from UNC and other universities around the country. By Thursday night, 269 UNC faculty members and 728 faculty members from universities across the country signed the letter which opposed punishment for withholding grades in protest.
Another open letter from current and former athletes includes former men's basketball players Harrison Barnes, Brice Johnson, Kendall Marshall, Tommy LaGarde, Bobby Frasor, Serge Zwikker and Joel James, as well as current players Garrison Brooks, Brandon Robinson and K.J. Smith. More than 230 former and current athletes have signed that petition.
Carter, Stackhouse and other former UNC players including Harrison Barnes, Kennedy Meeks, Justin Jackson, Danny Green and Raymond Felton sent their aforementioned open letter to Folt, the UNC Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors among others Thursday. The petition was first reported by Spectacular Magazine.
"We write to express our deep concern regarding the recent proposal to erect a building on south campus to house the Confederate Monument (aka 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 too 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."
The letter goes on to agree with the assertion made by the Black Student Movement statement of Black students and faculty being 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.'"
The letter then declares the disconnect felt between the athletes and UNC due to what it states as an unwillingness to listen to faculty and students who asked for the monument to move from campus.
"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!"
Other athletes who signed the petition include Marvin Williams, Tony Bradley, Theo Pinson, Ed Davis, Wayne Ellington, John Henson, Isaiah Hicks and Brendan Haywood as the unrest surrounding Silent Sam continues to grow.
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