WVU, Mountaineer student-athletes and coaches and administrators react to nationwide George Floyd protests

WVU Mountaineers

A chain portrait of George Floyd is part of the memorial for him, Wednesday, May 27, 2020, near the site of the arrest of Floyd who died in police custody Monday night in Minneapolis after video shared online by a bystander showed a white officer kneeling on his neck during his arrest as he pleaded that he couldn’t breathe. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

The killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25 shook the nation, leading to protests and unrest in cities even beyond the Land of 1,000 Lakes.

Demonstrations, some of which have led to violence, have occurred nationwide since that date. While groups across West Virginia organize to peacefully protest police brutality, the state’s flagship institution for higher education made a statement on the matter on social media.

“Our University not only has an obligation but a calling to stand up against hatred, intolerance, and racism. We stand with our Black community members, we are here for you,” read the statement on WVU’s social media pages. “Because of our diverse population at WVU, we grow and learn to our fullest. Together as Mountaineers, we must live with compassion, respect and appreciation. We will not have it any other way.”

Floyd’s death and its aftermath has garnered a strong reaction across the WVU community, especially among its student-athletes. Rising sophomore wide receiver Bryce Wheaton, a North Carolina native, detailed his experiences with racism in a tweet.

“I have struggled with racism for many years with having a lack of African American friends these are experiences I have kept bottled up because My white friends might not have understood exactly how I felt,” he wrote. “For the first time in a long time I’m at a loss for words and I cannot express my anger.”

(Reader’s discretion: the following tweet includes a racial slur.)

Fellow wide receiver Sam James echoed Wheaton’s sentiment, quoting the tweet with a message of support after giving his own thoughts over the weekend.

“The only thing that the black community want is to be treated with kindness and respect,” James tweeted on Sunday. “We want to be able to have the same opportunities as the white community.”

Head coach Neal Brown added his thoughts to the nationwide discussion on Saturday with a lengthy post on his own Twitter account, in which he described the pain he felt as well as the explanation he and his wife, Brooke, gave their children about the situation.

“Be a light,” read the tweet’s caption.

Several other coaches joined the conversation as well, including Bob Huggins, Randy Mazey and Nikki Izzo-Brown.

Student-athletes across the WVU sports world also expressed their feelings towards the issue.

Mountaineer alumni, some of whom are on professional teams or in coaching positions, also spoke out on social media.

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