Given the ugly and tragic events that overtook Charlottesville and the University of Virginia over the weekend, one would think leaders of neighboring communities and colleges would have the compassion – or at least the common sense – to issue statements of support.
Clearly, offering sympathy and well wishes for the good citizens of Central Virginia was the only remotely appropriate way to handle such a situation.
Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. apparently didn’t agree.
“Finally a leader in the White House,” Falwell tweeted Wednesday. “Jobs returning, North Korea backing down, bold truthful statement about Charlottesville tragedy. So proud of Donald Trump.”
— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) August 16, 2017
This was all Falwell — whose rapidly growing school is located just an hour south of Charlottesville — had to say about the invasion of white supremacist groups to that city, or the loss of lives that accompanied the event.
After such a tone deaf and/or intentionally divisive and hurtful statement, UVA should cancel its upcoming football series with Falwell’s Liberty Flames. It wouldn’t be out of line to ask Virginia Tech, which received unlimited support from UVA after its own unimaginable tragedy in 2007, to do the same.
There’s little reason to offer a man who can’t even make the simplest gesture of goodwill such a huge favor.
A little backstory, with Liberty making the transition from the FCS level of Division I football to the upper tier FBS level, both Virginia and Virginia Tech agreed to series with the Flames that included Liberty home games in Lynchburg. It was, frankly, an extremely generous move by the state’s most prominent universities and athletic departments.
It was already a decision that made little sense for UVA from philosophical, financial and football perspectives.
Liberty’s stance on issues such as LGBT rights and certain areas of scientific research don’t mesh with that of a large, state-funded liberal arts university. Don’t think that’s an issue when it comes to sports? Research why BYU isn’t in a major conference.
Beyond that, Virginia is giving up the potential revenue of a home game to take the team down to Liberty. The Cavaliers have a similar arrangement with Old Dominion, which also made the move from FCS to FBS. But giving a home game to ODU allows Virginia to help a school in the same state system while reaching out to an area rich with alumni and recruits, many of which might not make the long drive to Charlottesville otherwise.
None of that applies to Liberty. Agreeing to that series was simply an act of goodwill, and that’s how Falwell chose to repay it.
Sports are clearly very important to Falwell. The vast majority of his tweets this month have been about either NASCAR or Flames football. This transition to FBS is a huge part of an overall plan to increase the school’s reach. He sold his soul to bring in disgraced athletic director Ian McCaw after the repeated sexual assault accusations and cover ups at Baylor became too much for even that school to overlook.
It’s been argued on Twitter that sports doesn’t need to be political, but common decency on the part of university leaders shouldn’t be a political issue either. Falwell’s relationship with the president doesn’t mean he must alienate victims in his own state or minority students at his own school.
Virginia, and other programs, have plenty of reasons not to play Liberty. Wednesday should just be the final straw.