Earlier this week as I was making my rare scroll through Facebook, I came across a post from ASUN Conference commissioner Ted Gumbart that piqued my interest.
It wasn’t a typical post that updates followers of the ASUN page of scores or photos. Rather, it was a statement that caused me to stop.
Now, I had known that the conference was landing another university in the form of Division I newcomer Queens University as the ASUN’s 14th member.
I thought the statement was more of a formal announcement that Queens was being added.
Instead, the statement discussed what happened to the Delaware State women’s lacrosse team as it traveled home April 20th from a three-match road trip against ASUN opponents Kennesaw State, Jacksonville and Stetson.
Delaware State is a Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) member as well as the women’s lacrosse team being an ASUN affiliate member.
The statement reads how Delaware State University’s student newspaper published May 4 the team account of the April 20 incident in which the team bus was pulled over by officers Liberty County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia.
Because the statement was somewhat vague on what happened, I had to do seek out why the statement was made.
That led me to an article by Kevin Tresolini of the Delaware News Journal about the events.
Tresolini lays out the events by saying that the team was traveling north on I-95 southwest of Savannah, Georgia, when the bus was stopped by police.
He writes that bus driver Tim Jones was told he was stopped because he was improperly traveling in the left lane, which Tresolini cites the DSU student newspaper.
Tresolini references the video taken by DSU player Saniya Craft which also accompanies Tresolini’s article at the top, where an officer tells the team, “If there is anything in y’all’s luggage, we’re probably going to find it, OK? I’m not looking for a little bit of marijuana, but I’m pretty sure you guys’ chaperones are probably gonna be disappointed in you if we find any.”
Just to allow room for judgment for one’s self because I’m not a fan of others telling me how I should feel. I’m going to do the same and allow others to judge how they feel, but I will give my opinion on the matter.
I’m not going to break down every single part of the video or accompanying stories (they are easy to find), but I will provide a snippet of details from Tresolini’s story as well as a follow up story from Tresolini’s and his colleague Isabel Hughes, which states body camera footage from the officer contradicts statements made by the Liberty County Sheriff who defended the stop.
Starting there, Hughes and Tresolini quote Sheriff William Bowman’s statement of “no personal items on the bus or person(s) were searched.”
However, the body camera footage and several other accounts say deputies go through players’ backpacks and bags. The officers also called in a K-9 unit as well as a forced opening of a package that ended up being a graduation gift for one of the seniors on the team.
I’ll spare other details because this could be quite a lengthy column if I were to write about everything, so I highly encourage those reading this column to seek out other articles about this incident that has now brought national attention.
Now, I haven’t yet stated that the girls from this team are largely populated by black student-athletes, the bus driver Tim Jones is black and the officers are white.
Normally, I would like to have written about the positive things I saw in the sports world this week because there were some I could have written about, but I feel this needs more attention.
It’s highly upsetting to me that in 2022, not even two years removed from the racial tension events that went on throughout our country, this kind of stuff is still going on.
Whether some want to label this as happenstance or racial profiling, the details have me leaning toward racial profiling.
The changing of the reason why the team was stopped; the deputies going through player’s stuff potentially looking for something suspicious; as well as bringing a K-9 unit and the sheriff contradicting what happened and what body cameras showed has me leaning toward racial profiling.
One of the articles about this situation says the sheriff disputed knowing the bus was full of primarily black college students, despite the officers stating on the body camera footage that they knew it was a bus full of “school girls.”
One of the girls on the bus is quoted as saying, “How did we go from a routine traffic stop to narcotics-sniffing dogs going through our belongings?”
In 2020, we were all witness to the dam finally breaking on racial injustice throughout our country.
As a white Christian man, I realize that there are things that I haven’t experienced before and cannot experience.
I will never know what it is like to be black person that has dealt with being pulled over for little to no reason, therefore, I don’t feel I can speak on how they should feel when these situations arise.
But, I do have black friends. Two of my best friends, who are white, are married to black women.
The stories I saw posted on Facebook by my black friends during the summer of 2020 hurt me deeply that they have experienced those things and are likely still experiencing some of that.
Now, I don’t believe every officer is bad. I loathe putting everyone in a box because I believe not everyone fits in a particular category. I have known people that are police officers in Conway and they are good dudes.
In fact, photos posted to Facebook by my friend Ian Lyle during that summer show our community is doing a great job with this divide.
But, somehow, some way, we have got to move past this racial division in our country. We have got to stop profiling people because of the color of their skin.
There are bad people in all kinds of categories, but that doesn’t mean that all people in those categories are bad.
I hate this team had to go through this. I do hope we can get to a place one day where we don’t have to talk about this stuff.
Andy Robertson is the sports editor of the Log Cabin Democrat and can be reached at arobertson @thecabin.net.