Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond has taken to Twitter to campaign for the removal of a statue of former Texas A&M president Lawrence Sullivan “Sul” Ross, commonly referred to as “Sully.”
“The values of Texas A&M University do not align with RACISM, VIOLENCE, SLAVERY & SEGREGATION, but Jimbo Fisher’s most prominent saying will always stick with me: ‘Your actions speak so loud I can’t hear what you’re saying,’” Mond said in a lengthy statement featuring quotes from primary source documents. “The Lawrence Sullivan Ross Statue NEEDS to be removed. Texas A&M University, I NEED to see ACTION.”
Ross was governor of Texas in the late 1880s and an influential president at Texas A&M from 1890 to 1898 who helped steer the university through dire financial straits, as well as helping to secure funding for Prairie View A&M University, a historically Black college. But Ross served as a brigadier general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, needing a pardon from President Andrew Johnson to avoid prison time. Ross also served with the Texas Rangers from 1860 to 1861, rising to the rank of captain and leading several violent raids against Native American communities.
The “Sully” statue has quickly become a battleground on Texas A&M’s campus. The memorial was built in 1918 in the heart of campus, and is the oldest surviving statue on campus. It’s a tradition at Texas A&M for students to “put a penny on Sully” for good luck before taking an exam.
More than 24,000 people have signed a petition calling for Sully to be taken down and displayed elsewhere, while more than 25,000 people have signed a petition calling for the statue to stay.
Last week, the statue was defaced with graffiti and topped with a rainbow wig. Hundreds of protestors from both sides of the debate converged on the College Station campus. One protestor on the “keep Sully” side held up a sign that said “Aggie Traditions Matter.” The hashtag “#RacismAtTAMUFeelsLike” trended nationally on Twitter on Tuesday.
After Mond released his statement, dozens of current and former teammates came to his aid on social media. “Keep being the leader you were always meant to be,” said Heisman winner Johnny Manziel.“Whole team got your back 11,” said backup quarterback Zach Calzada. “Keep being yourself [Kellen]! Proud of you bro,” said former tight end Jace Sternberger. “Best QB in college football and I’m going to stand on it,” said defensive tackle Bobby Brown III.
However, former Texas A&M quarterback and Tennessee Titans starter Ryan Tannehill came out with perhaps the strongest statement of support: "I’m with [Kellen Mond]. We can’t continue to ignore the evil perpetrated by Sullivan Ross. #SullyGottaGo"
Black students make up 3.3 percent of Texas A&M’s enrollment, compared to 13.8 percent statewide. Texas A&M ranks 11th out of the state's 12 FBS schools in percentage of Black enrollment, ahead of only UTEP, which is 91 percent Hispanic.
In the days since the protests, Texas A&M president Michael K. Young released ten actions to deal with racial issues on campus, including the creation of a task force of diverse faculty, expanding the Department of Multicultural Services, recruit more underrepresented students and launching anti-discrimination bystander intervention training. A separate task force has also been created to review statues, buildings and monuments.
Young also announced a renewed push to build a statue of Matthew Gaines, a former enslaved individual who later became a Texas state senator. He was key in passing legislation that helped create Texas A&M in the 1870s, though Black students would not be allowed to enroll for nearly another century. The university first explored building a Gaines statue in 1998 and announced an initiative in 2018. The school has struggled to raise the $350,000 needed for the statue.
Mond has earned a reputation as a quiet leader, but has taken on a more vocal role on social media in the wake of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations nationwide. Entering his fourth year as the Aggies' starter, Mond is on pace to break the school's all-time marks for passing yards, passing touchdowns and total offense.
In addition to being a former president at Texas A&M, Ross is also the namesake for Sul Ross State University in Alpine.
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