Virginia’s outside linebacker Charles Snowden discusses with Wes McElroy what it was like to be part of the peaceful protests in Washington, D.C., this week, a “draining” time of emotions, and what his Cavaliers teammates have learned.

Question: Why was it so important for you to be part of the protests on Tuesday in D.C.?

Answer: When you think of the nation’s capital, Washington D.C., it’s setting an example for the rest of the country, and I thought it was important to go out and voice my opinion. I know it’s important to speak up and speak your mind and take a stand. It was important for me, and also gaining perspective on how others feel and just showing I’m in this with everyone.

Question: What perspective did you gain?

Answer: It was a draining day because of what people were saying, not just what people were saying, it was how they were saying it. The amount of pain, anger and frustration that I could hear in people’s voices, it shook me to my core. I was in pain and anger and frustration, but to hear the levels of it and to hear what people were articulating to police officers and the messages they were trying to convey, it shook me.

But also to see the unity of how people came together and how organized the protests were and how people were helping each other out, it was inspiring seeing humans — black, white, old, young, man and woman, seeing them come together was inspiring.

Question: Did you discuss protesting with your head coach or coaches?

Answer: Not necessarily. I’ve been communicating with coach [Bronco] Mendenhall and my position coach [Kelly] Poppinga about the political climate and what we can do as a program.

Question: What have some of the conversations been like with your coaches and teammates through this week and last week?

Answer: I think the biggest message has been we are all in agreement that change has to come. Now the conversation has to be how we can do that and what, as an ACC football program, we can do. For the coaches, it’s been more so opening their eyes, because a lot of them come from Utah, Wyoming and Idaho and then coached at BYU, so they haven’t had the personal experience [of what it is to be black in America]. They’ve heard about it and read about it. They’ve never seen it with their own eyes and had it communicated to them, so that has been our biggest thing is showing them what it’s really like, and I think it’s really resonated with them.

For my teammates, we were supposed to have a football meeting the other day for two hours, but the whole time we just spoke about the political climate of the nation and what we can do.

After that, I mean dudes have been reaching out to me left and right about potential ideas. Guys want to start podcasts, have marches, and get more involved in the Charlottesville community. I loved how active everyone wants to get and the way it’s mobilized my teammates. It’s been inspiring me.

Question: We’ve heard so much this week about understanding one another. What would you like people to understand? What is your message?

Answer: My biggest message is to just listen. It’s easy to look at people down there protesting and say why are they destroying property and why is it getting violent and I am, by no means, condoning the violence, but people are doing that because they are angry and they are hurt. They are being moved to do that.

So, instead of looking at what they are doing, look at why they are doing that. Let’s change that “why.”

People are being oppressed constantly and they want that to change. Black people do not want to continue to live life looking over their shoulders worried that they might not come home today for an unjustified reason. People are tired of it and they want to express that and to be heard. If you look at it, [Colin] Kaepernick was doing it peacefully and people told him “that was the wrong way.” People have been doing it and have been doing it for years, and it just got to a point that if the peaceful protests aren’t working, you have to do something to be heard.

Question: Why does it seem sometimes in sports that a team or a locker room is the most unified place in our world?

Answer: I think because in sports and on a team we all have the same goal and we are willing to put our differences aside or mend our differences all in the aim of that common goal, and that goal is to win. Team chemistry is a big part of winning and if you aren’t getting along with someone or can’t see eye to eye with someone, that impacts the team and can effect winning, so people are willing to put that aside for the common goal of winning. But also one thing we always say in our program is “hard things together,” so going through those similar hardships with people — race, creed, and religion aside — that really brings people together. It’s having that shared struggle and that shared difficult experience that really brings guys together, and that’s why I think people are willing to put their differences aside to find an understanding.

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