More than 100 former and current UNC athletes sign a letter opposing the Silent Sam plan

The rise and fall of Silent Sam

Silent Sam has stood on UNC-Chapel Hill's McCorkle Place for 105 years. On Monday August 20, 2018, it was brought down by protesters.
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Silent Sam has stood on UNC-Chapel Hill's McCorkle Place for 105 years. On Monday August 20, 2018, it was brought down by protesters.

More than 100 current and former UNC-Chapel Hill student-athletes have signed an open letter condemning the university’s recent proposal to put the Silent Sam statue in a new $5.3 million building on campus.

Among those on the list opposing the Confederate monument are current basketball and football players. They include forward Garrison Brooks, a UNC starter, and guard Kenny Smith Jr.; running backs Michael Carter and Jordon Brown, and starting offensive lineman William Sweet.

“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.”

The letter is one of more than 20 statements released recently in support of the effort to keep Silent Sam off campus, including one Wednesday in which faculty members asked parents and guardians of students for support.

The proposal for the statue was approved by UNC’s Board of Trustees earlier this month, and is expected to go before the UNC System’s Board of Governors on Friday at the Friday Center.

Under the plan, the statue would be placed in a new history center on the edge of campus that will cost $5.3 million and $800,000 a year to operate. It could be paid for with state money, according UNC Chancellor Carol L. Folt, and will have state-of-the-art security.

Silent Sam has sparked multiple protests around campus, including an Aug. 20 rally in which protestors brought the statue down.

On Monday, the UNC Board of Trustees recommended building a historical center on campus to house Silent Sam. The building is estimated to cost $5.3 million.

A week after the statue came down, a few football players were asked their thoughts on it. Sweet said he just wanted the best for the university.

“I want everyone to be positive and I don’t want any violence or anyone getting in harms way,” Sweet said. “I think we all have the beauty to be able live each and every day and we have to cherish each and every moment of that.”

In the letter from former and current athletes, they write that they oppose any decision to keep the statue on UNC’s campus.

The athletes also recommend the university deem the statue a public safety threat by “virtue of its homage to racial violence and its historical record as the epicenter for clashes between white supremacist groups and members of the Carolina community.”

As of early Wednesday afternoon, 108 current and former student-athletes had signed the letter, which was addressed to the university’s top leaders, the board of governors and the North Carolina Historical Commission, which also must approve moving the statue.

Former UNC basketball star Brice Johnson, who last played for the Memphis Grizzlies, has also signed the letter.

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Several hundred people protested in Chapel Hill on Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, to oppose the recommendation made by the UNC Board of Trustees to build a new $5.3 million building on campus for the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam.

Jonathan M. Alexander has been covering the North Carolina Tar Heels since May 2018. He previously covered Duke basketball and recruiting in the ACC. He is an alumnus of N.C. Central University.
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