Virginia's Bronco Mendenhall stresses unity after area riots

Virginia football coach Bronco Mendenhall says his staff is ensuring player safety and the team is not being scared off by riots.

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Virginia football coach Bronco Mendenhall, speaking to reporters Tuesday for the first time since the events in Charlottesville over the weekend, said none of his players has voiced concern about continuing to play for the team in that environment.

White supremacists marched on the city with torches on Friday. On Saturday, a man drove into a group of people protesting the rally. One woman was killed, and several more were injured.

"I was expecting more concern," Mendenhall said, "but most of them are realizing that this is happening from people that are coming in from outside our city and leaving ... that won't necessarily be their neighbors and their fans. No recruits have said they're no longer coming, no parents are saying they're no longer coming."

Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP

Building his team's confidence has been a top priority for coach Bronco Mendenhall.

Mendenhall said the team's message is one of unity, "embracing diversity and being together, and respecting one another for differences, not separating because of differences."

The Cavaliers showed as much when players decided to have their photo taken Monday in front of the Rotunda with their arms linked. The Rotunda, designed by Thomas Jefferson, is located on The Lawn on the original grounds of the University of Virginia. The photo was tweeted from the football team's Twitter account.

"They stand united, embracing the differences and respecting the difference and valuing the differences," the second-year coach said.

Linebacker Micah Kiser, a two-year captain, said it was important to show people who the Cavaliers are.

"We didn't take a team picture last year. So us together as a team, not even really wearing football gear because a lot of times people think African-Americans are just here to play football," Kiser said, according to the Daily Progress. "We wanted to show that we're not just here to play football. We're here to be great stewards of the community, get a great education and play football as well."

Safety Quin Blanding agreed.

"We just want to show that football is very diverse," he said, according to the Daily Progress. "And once you step on a team and once you become a team and once you form a brotherhood, that's your brotherhood no matter color, no matter race, no matter religion.

"We're all one no matter what. There's no hate on a team. We're all together, we share the same goals and we share the same heart."

Mendenhall said some protesters stayed in the same hotel where the team is based for training camp.

He said he has told the team that with the spotlight comes opportunity, and he knows sports can be a rallying cry.

"We would like to help our team inspire and teach and perform in a way that will bring the community together," Mendenhall said.

Cavaliers basketball coach Tony Bennett shared a similar message on Twitter on Tuesday night. 

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