CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – When the West Virginia University Mountaineers took to the field against Eastern Kentucky in the season-opening game, many players wore the “Black Lives Matter” insignia on their helmets. Now a group of 17 Republican State Senators wrote university president Gordon Gee objecting to the logo on uniforms, saying it smacks of endorsing a political cause.
“The university gets $131 million, more than that, a year of taxpayer dollars. To say that the brand of West Virginia University is not associated with the football team when they put that on the football helmets of West Virginia University athletes? Come on,” said State Sen. Eric Tarr, (R) Putnam.
Senator Tarr says some in the “Black Lives Matter” movement have resorted to violence in other states, and he feels WVU is condoning that. But a long-time state civil rights leader calls that nonsense, saying “Black Lives Matter” should prompt discussion of racial problems, not shut them down. And that the state has bigger problems.
“It’s over the top, for the issue at hand. Putting a sticker on a helmet. This response? We are in a pandemic. COVID-19, people dying in the state of West Virginia,” said Rev. Matthew Watts, Grace Bible Church.
The senators also objected to the comments of a Marshall University professor who said she hoped supporters of President Trump who did not wear face masks, would catch COVID-19 and die. She has since been suspended.
“WVU issued a statement saying no taxpayer dollars were used to but the BLM stickers on the helmets, and added the student-athletes who participated, did so voluntarily. Marshall University also issued a statement saying employees should not be using classrooms to wish harm upon individuals with whom they disagree,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.
The full joint statement from WVU and WVU Athletics is below:
“West Virginia University and its athletics department must ensure a safe and equitable environment for our students and staff. We have an obligation to peacefully stand up against hatred, intolerance and racism. Our student-athletes and staff are united to bring about a positive and peaceful change to our great country. As Mountaineers, we would not have it any other way.
It’s important for our fans to know that this helmet sticker is not advocating for any organization or any political stance, violence, rioting, looting or destruction. The sticker is a call for unity, safety and equality.
No state taxpayer dollars were used relating to these stickers. It is also important to note that each individual student-athlete voluntarily chose to participate.
We have student-athletes who want to bring an end to the social injustices using peaceful and positive ideas. Our student-athletes take great pride in representing West Virginia University and the state of West Virginia and are impressive in their maturity and caring attitude.”Michael Fragale, Senior Associate Athletics Director/Communications