Three football players formerly enrolled at Liberty University announced Monday that they will leave the prominent Virginia-based evangelical Christian institution, with two of them citing “racial insensitivity” or “cultural” incompetence of the school’s leadership.
Sophomore cornerbacks Kei'Trel Clark and Tayvion Land, as well as senior linebacker Waylen Cozad, took to Twitter to announce their decisions to enter the college football transfer portal. Clark and Land, who are African American, cited cultural and racial issues.
In his statement, Land said that while he “appreciated” much of his time and “most” of his professors at Liberty, he is departing due to “the racial insensitivity displayed by leadership.”
“I pray that I am able to be provided with [an] opportunity at a new school that respects my culture and provides a comfortable environment,” Land wrote.
In his tweeted statement, Clark said that while he found the Liberty football program and its personnel to be “a complete blessing,” he did not respect the “cultural [incompetence] within multiple levels of leadership.” Clark stressed that his decision was “well thought out and prayed on.”
“This decision is simply bigger than football or the program,” Clark wrote, adding that the incompetence in the leadership at the university “does not line up with my code of ethics.”
Liberty spokesperson Scott Lamb told The Christian Post in an email that the university is “saddened” by the departures and assured that the players “will always be a part of the Liberty University family.
“[W]e will support and pray for them wherever they are,” Lamb told CP.
In both the emailed statement and on social media, Liberty has blamed an unnamed professor for creating the racial hostility, noting that the person has been dismissed.
“Humbled by your compliments. ... Saddened to see you transfer, especially in the wake of totally inappropriate comments by a professor who has been terminated,” tweeted Liberty in response to Clark and Land. “You will always be a part of the LU family, and we will support and pray for you wherever you are.”
Some on social media were critical of the fact that Liberty’s statement blamed the unnamed professor rather than address concerns related to the school’s leadership and President Jerry Falwell Jr.
Clark told ABC News on Twitter that remarks from the professor were "one of the reasons" he entered the transfer portal but did not elaborate if Falwell's recent social media activity was also something he took into consideration.
Falwell, son of Liberty founder Jerry Fallwell Sr., recently stirred controversy for a tweet joking that he would wear a face mask featuring the controversial school photo of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam in blackface.
Many labeled the tweet racially offensive. While Falwell eventually deleted the post and apologized, some saw it as the latest among many problematic posts from the politically-outspoken Falwell, a staunch conservative supporter of President Donald Trump.
In response, a few African-American staff members at Liberty have resigned, among them are the school’s former director of diversity retention, LeeQuan McLaurin, and former online admissions counselor Keyvon Scott.
“I cannot in good faith encourage people to attend a school with racially insensitive leadership and culture,” tweeted Scott earlier this month. “It is a poor reflection of what Jesus Christ requires of us.”
Cozad, who is white, tweeted Monday that he is “ready for a new opportunity.”
According to ESPN, nine players, including three who were on scholarships, have either transferred or had their names removed from the Liberty Flames football roster after players returned to campus at the beginning of the month.
Last season was the first that Liberty University’s football team was bowl eligible after making the transition to play in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The team finished the regular season with a 7-5 record. The Flames defeated Georgia Southern to win the 2019 FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl in Orlando, Florida.