Team members were traumatised by racial profiling by Liberty County sheriff’s deputies
Liberty County sheriff’s deputies pulled the bus over as the team was on rheir way home after three games in Florida, entered the vehicle, and told team members that their luggage would be searched for drugs. The police also had a drug-sniffing dog with them.
The police had stopped the vehicle citing a traffic violation.
The incident was first reported by Delaware State University’s student publication The Hornet Newspaper. The incident took place on 20 April on I-95 in Liberty County, Georgia.
The team members reported feeling “traumatised” after their charter bus was stopped by police while travelling through Georgia and the president of the school has said that they are “incensed” by this incident.
A video that was shot by a sophomore who was travelling on the bus shows an officer telling the team members “if there is something in there that is questionable, please tell me now. Because if we find it, guess what? We’re not going to be able to help you.”
The officer continued: “If there is anything in y’all’s luggage, we’re probably gonna 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.”
The Liberty County Sheriff’s Office deputies then began removing players’ bags from the vehicle’s cargo bay.
On Tuesday, Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman defended the stop. He said that no racial profiling took place. “Before entering the motorcoach, the deputies were not aware that this school was historically Black or aware of the race or the occupants due to the height of the vehicle and tint of the windows,” he said.
“As a veteran, a former Georgia state trooper and the sheriff for this department, I do not exercise racial profiling, allow racial profiling or encourage racial profiling.” Mr Bowman is Black.
But DSU president Tony Allen wrote in a letter on Monday that the university informed Delaware governor John Carney, the state Attorney General’s office, Delaware’s congressional delegation and the Congressional Black Caucus about the incident.
“They, like me, are incensed,” Mr Allen wrote. “We have also reached out to Georgia Law Enforcement and are exploring options for recourse – legal and otherwise – available to our student-athletes, our coaches, and the university.”
On Monday, the governor Mr Carney also released a statement in which he said that the video was “upsetting, concerning and disappointing”.
He added: “Moments like these should be relegated to part of our country’s complicated history but they continue to occur with sad regularity in communities across our country. It’s especially hard when it impacts our own community.”
Mr Allen, meanwhile, said: “It should not be lost on any of us how thin any day’s line is between customary and extraordinary, between humdrum and exceptional, between safe and victimised. That is true for us all but particularly so for communities of colour and the institutions that serve them. The resultant feelings of disempowerment are always the aggressors’ object.”