Duke University student-athletes held a peaceful protest

DURHAM, N.C. – Led by Duke men's basketball director of operations and player development Nolan Smith, Duke University student-athletes held a peaceful protest and conversation on campus Thursday bringing together hundreds of Blue Devil staff, student-athletes and coaches in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Smith addressed the crowd assembled on Krzyzewskiville, along with men's basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski, women's basketball head coach Kara Lawson, men's basketball student-athletes Mike Buckmire and Henry Coleman III, and Mark Anthony Neal, a Duke professor of African and African American Studies.

"We're here today to talk about feelings," said Smith. "There are black student-athletes out here, there are white student-athletes out here and we all have feelings right now. Unless it's addressed, you keep it bottled up, and you can't keep it bottled up because all that does is create anger, and we're all angry, sad, frustrated and confused. We're here to talk about all that today.”

Smith connected with a number of students on campus to help amplify word of today's event via their personal social media accounts, including members of the men's and women's basketball teams, Elijah Williams, a men's basketball senior manager, and Brandon Hill, a redshirt senior on the football team and member of United Black Athletes on campus.

"I'm so proud of you, and of Duke Athletics," said Krzyzewski. "This is a time for all of us to be on the same team. Today is for all of us to acknowledge this problem and to share our feelings. All of you want to have your feelings and your voices heard. Today, I want you to listen. Over the last six months I have listened -- I've listened to my players, I've listened to people around the country. We can make a difference, and it can start here at Duke. As we express our feelings today, there need to be action items for all of us to do. The action item my team is going to take today, we're going to register to vote today."

“I wanted to thank everyone for being here today,” said Lawson. “And I wanted to give a little insight in to what it’s like to be an African American in this county. It’s very confusing at times. Because equality, in theory, is a basic principle. But in practice, for our country, it’s been very complicated. It’s been hard to rationalize. There’s a lot of anxiety involved in it, and those of you that are African American know what I’m talking about. Every day when you wake up, you feel anxious -- of every minute. Knowing that on your drive to school or your drive to work, going to a restaurant, sitting in your house or hanging out with your friends at a park, that that could be your last moment on earth.”

Following the demonstration, each member of the men's and women's basketball teams that had not already done so, used the website www.allintovote.org to register to vote.