The University of Virginia’s athletic department shouldn’t be dominating headlines for something like this.
UVA Athletics should be in the news like it was in 2018, when the men’s basketball team made history by becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a 16th seed in the NCAA tournament.
That’s a headline, not this.
Or, the time in 2019, when the same team that dealt with the failure, jokes, and embarrassment of losing to UMBC, came back the very next year and won the very tournament that made them the laughingstock of the sport, 388 days later.
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That’s a helluva story, not this.
Due to this country’s obsession with violence and gun culture, UVA Athletics are in the news, again, for something that isn’t a sports story but is as American as a story can be. UVA football players Lavel Davis Jr., Devin Chandler, and D’Sean Perry are dead after Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. — a former member of the football team — opened fire late Sunday night on a charter bus that was returning from a field trip, leaving three dead and two more injured.
“I cannot find the words to express the devastation and heartache that our team is feeling today after the tragic events last night that resulted in the deaths of Lavel, D’Sean and Devin, and the others who were injured,” wrote UVA head football coach Tony Elliott in a statement. “These were incredible young men with huge aspirations and extremely bright futures. Our hearts ache for their families, their classmates and their friends. These precious young men were called away too soon. We are all fortunate to have them be a part of our lives. They touched us, inspired us and worked incredibly hard as representatives of our program, university and community. Rest in peace, young men.”
Thoughts and prayers have never been the solution to stopping gun violence in America — legislation is. This is why it’s so ironic that this tragic event occurred days after a very important Election Day — as gun control has been a hotly debated topic, as Republicans continue to elect and vote for politicians who stand against doing what it takes to lessen these kinds of things from happening. They say they’re pro-life when it comes to abortion, but then turn around and support the guns that take lives.
According to Everytown Research, there have been over 300 shootings on college campuses since 2013. That staggering number doesn’t even take into consideration the copious amounts of bomb threats — at least 57 — that Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) campuses have dealt with over the last few years.
In our society, two things have always been true. The first one — college has always been something we’ve prided young people for attending, as it’s an unforgettable life-changing experience that challenges you and forces you to grow intellectually and socially. The second one — sports have always brought people together, as games have served as an escape for so many — whether it be the fans or the athletes who view the playing field as their sanctuary. College athletics tie both of them together, as the young people that we enjoy on the football fields on Saturday and the basketball courts in March — even though they aren’t being compensated — have always brought us together. Football is a religion in the south. March is an entire month dedicated to hoops.
But yet, here are we, in a moment that was so preventable with proper legislation, where the thing America runs to as an antidote, sports, has been contaminated just like the things we so badly need a break from. From the civil rights movement to racial and social issues to voter registration and women’s rights, sports have always been a change agent. And hopefully, for once, there could be some sort of silver lining in this. But, despite the hope that we might be holding out for, longing for this to be a catalyst for true change when it comes to gun violence, we must also understand that this is America, and better yet, Charlottesville.
November is the best month on the sports calendar. Baseball just ended. The NFL and college football are in full swing. The NBA is in season, and college basketball is beginning. Games are always on and escape routes are at a surplus. Here’s to the sports calendar of November 2022 and the University of Virginia’s campus not being in this same place in 2023 — vote.