Black staff, athletes leave Liberty University after Falwell tweet

A number of Black staff members and student-athletes are leaving Liberty University after the school’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., sought to mock Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Twitter last month with a mask that depicted the racist imagery from Northam’s medical school yearbook page.

Four Black staff members have left the school so far and the same number of Black athletes have announced their intentions to do the same after Falwell’s tweet, according to The Associated Press. The report comes several weeks after a group of Black graduates signed a letter condemning Falwell for the tweet and demanding he apologize.

In the May 27 tweet, Falwell voiced his opposition to a mandate requiring Virginia residents wear face coverings in public and, in a swipe at Northam, said he would only wear a mask if it featured a photo from the governor’s medical school yearbook page that showed a man wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe and another man in blackface. 

“I was adamantly opposed to the mandate from @GovernorVA requiring citizens to wear face masks until I decided to design my own. If I am ordered to wear a mask, I will reluctantly comply, but only if this picture of Governor Blackface himself is on it!” Falwell said in the since-deleted tweet. 

The image drew a wave of criticism against the governor when it surfaced last year and fueled calls for Northam to resign. Falwell apologized for his tweet after drawing swift backlash from many online and from Black alumni for using the racist imagery.

“After listening to African American LU leaders and alumni over the past week and hearing their concerns, I understand that by tweeting an image to remind all of the governor’s racist past,” Falwell, a staunch supporter of President Trump, tweeted

“I actually refreshed the trauma that image had caused and offended some by using the image to make a political point. Based on our long relationships, they uniformly understood this was not my intent, but because it was the result,” he added.

Members of the university’s board of trustees also came to Falwell’s defense shortly after his apology, with Jerry Prevo, chairman of the board, saying then that the school officials “know him and know him not to be a racist.” 

However, Falwell’s apology hasn’t stopped several Black staff members and a number of athletes from leaving the school in recent weeks. 

Two black football players at the school, Tayvion Land and Kei’Trel Clark, were among the latest this week to announce their intentions to leave the university, citing issues like the school’s “racial insensitivity” and “cultural incompetent within multiple levels of leadership.”

Basketball player Asia Todd also announced earlier this month that she would be leaving the school in a video while wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt. 

The exits also come as protests against racism and police treatment of people of color continue across the country following the police killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and more Black Americans.

Tags Donald Trump Jerry Falwell Jr. Liberty University Virginia

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