(Photo Courtesy of WVU Athletics)
Morgantown, West Virginia – When Darius Stills posted a picture of the “BLM” decal on the back of the Mountaineers helmets, it started a firestorm of controversy among fans and supporters of the program.
Many fans claimed that Black Lives Matter is a dangerous political organization that causes more harm than good. Others suggested that the Black Lives Matter decal was an important first step in bringing about racial equality.
Perhaps to quell the fans’ uneasiness with the situation, West Virginia University chose to put the word “UNITY” prominently on the back of the helmet. “Unity” is a word that everyone can get behind, regardless of their political or religious views. “Unity” is a powerful word because it’s all-inclusive and shows support for racial equality.
In addition, players were given the option of wearing the “BLM” decal if they decided to do so. This made it a personal – rather than institution – choice. If a player felt compelled to support Black Lives Matter by wearing a decal, that was the decision of the player, not the team. If a player decided to not wear the decal, that was their choice and that didn’t make them any less supportive of their black teammates.
Everyone wins in this situation. The university doesn’t have to take an official stance on Black Lives Matter, players who felt passionate about it could support it and players who felt uneasy about it could make the decision to not wear it.
While West Virginia University has been completely supportive of racial equality over the past several months, isolating a large portion of the fan base was unacceptable, particularly when so much money has been lost during the pandemic.
West Virginia handled this difficult situation with class and a real sophistication. It’s difficult for any fan – regardless of their beliefs – to not be supportive of what they’ve done and how they’ve navigated through such a challenging time in history.