North Carolina coach Roy Williams said Friday afternoon that he is not in favor of the university re-erecting the Silent Sam statue, which was pulled down by a group of protestors in a rally in August.
Earlier this month, the university had proposed a plan to put the statue in a secured a $5.3 million history center on campus. It was approved by UNC’s board of trustees, but was rejected by the UNC system Board of Governors in a meeting on Friday.
Multiple alumni and faculty groups wrote statements opposing the statue on campus, including a group of more than 240 current and former student-athletes, who wrote an open letter condemning the university’s proposal.
“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.”
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As of Friday afternoon, four current basketball players — K.J. Smith., Garrison Brooks, Brandon Robinson and Sterling Manley — had signed the letter.
“I talked to our guys about it and told them if they feel strongly about it, go right ahead,” Williams said. “I think it’s their individual rights, and I think they should if they feel strongly about it.”
For Williams, as an alum and former player at UNC, he said he didn’t think the statue should be on campus.
“It’s a very divisive thing, and I hate that we have anything divisive on our campus, or involved in our institution,” Williams said.
Williams said he read the speech given when the statue was first erected in 1913, and it strengthened his opinion.
“In my own personal belief, I think that it would be best for it to not be here,” Williams said. “And I think some of those people in the decision-making business would rather it not be here, but the only people that can change that are the ones who can make the laws, and I haven’t spoken to those people about it.”
A committee has been formed to come up with a new recommendation by March 15.