The Talladega (Ala.) College volleyball team ended its 2022 season on a very sour note. Besides a three-match losing skid, the Tornadoes (13-17, 5-13 Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) left its league tournament earlier this month after a player received a racial image on social media.
According to the school release, the team walked out of the SSAC awards banquet in protest “due to what the institution believes to be a lack of action taken around racial abuse.” ESPN and the Associated Press reported the team walkout last week and that the SSAC, which is in the NAIA, was still investigating the incident
“The commissioner addressed it immediately,” said Talladega President Gregory J. Vincent last week in an exclusive interview with the MSR. He was not quoted in both mainstream media accounts, which used excerpts from the released statement from the school and did quote SSAC Commissioner Mike Hall, who said the league was still investigating the incident.
Vincent said that once the player received the racial image, she reported it to her coach. The school in turn reported it to SSAC officials prior to the tournament. However, it was something Hall said during his banquet remarks that didn’t sit well with the Talladega players, which convinced them to walk out of the tourney and concluded its season.
“I think he used some language that I think could have been reframed,” continued Vincent. “He [said], ‘They are part of us,’ as if we’re not part of them. I would have wished he would have used some different language. He kind of danced around [the racist incident]. He also didn’t explicitly call it racist.
“I give him credit for addressing it quickly. I think [with] a little more time we could have addressed that in a more complete way.”
Briefly, the unfortunate racial incident and the player walkout got the mainstream media attention rather than shining a spotlight on Talladega College’s historic prowess.
Talladega College is Alabama’s first private historically Black liberal arts college, founded in 1867 by formerly enslaved Blacks after the Civil War. Its campus is located in Talladega, which is 50 miles east of Birmingham, 85 miles north of Montgomery, and 100 miles west of Atlanta, Georgia.
The school still has the original schoolhouse used for classrooms (Swayne Hall), and its library was the original home of the Amistad Murals. “These murals are valued at $50 million,” noted Vincent.
Over the last three years, Talladega opened three new state-of-the-art facilities—a 45,000 square foot residence hall (2019), a new student activity center, and a new museum, both in 2020. Several national publications have listed the college among the nation’s best liberal arts colleges, best HBCUs, and in 2019 rated it second among U.S. colleges for “low average graduating debt.”
Vincent, who was named school president on March 31, pointed out that the college was founded on “a faith inspired mission to educate generations of students to come.”
Some might compare what happened to the Talladega players to what happened back in September when a Duke Black volleyball player reported a racial incident during a game at BYU in September. The host school later concluded after its investigation that they couldn’t find any evidence of wrongdoing.
“I think the big difference is that this is a verified incident,” said Vincent. “This racist image was dropped to one of our players and others received it.” He considered it a no-brainer to support the players’ protest because it “sends a message.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.