Earlier this week, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. deleted a post on his personal Twitter account and apologized for the pain he caused the African-American community after posting an image of a mask he customized in protest of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s order for all Virginians to wear a mask while in public.
The image was from the governor’s medical school yearbook and showed the governor in blackface standing next to someone dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
After listening to African American LU leaders and alumni over the past week and hearing their concerns, I understand that by tweeting an image to remind all of the governor’s racist past (Part 1/3)
— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) June 8, 2020
It was a meeting with former Liberty running back Rashad Jennings that helped lead to Falwell’s apology.
“I got an outpouring of love and support from Liberty’s athletic community,” Falwell stated in a local radio interview Wednesday. “I think Rashad Jennings said it best. He came over to my house the other day and we met at the office a couple days ago. He said, ‘Jerry, when you took a swing at the Governor, we all knew who you were aiming at, but you inadvertently punched your African-American community in the face in the process…its so hurtful for us to see that image.'”
Jennings played for the Flames from 2006-2008 and was a consensus first-team All-American during his senior year when he rushed for 1,526 yards and 17 touchdowns while also earning his second Big South Offensive Player of the Year award and finishing 8th in voting for the Walter Payton Award, given annually to the top FCS player in the country.
Jennings was the 6th player in program history to be selected in the NFL Draft when he was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 7th round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Jennings had a 7-year NFL career playing for the Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, and New York Giants. He finished his career with 3,772 yards and 23 touchdowns. He was selected to the Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame in 2018.
“I had to hear from people who I love and who love me, who love Liberty,” Falwell said. “Once I heard their voice, then I responded.”