Arizona Basketball

Annual Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate pays tribute to Charleston shooting victims



The late Ricky Byrdsong was instrumental in Lute Olson's early recruiting efforts upon his hire in 1983

The late Ricky Byrdsong was instrumental in Lute Olson’s early recruiting efforts upon his hire in 1983

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What happened 16 years ago to former Arizona Wildcats assistant coach Ricky Byrdsong, sadly and horrifically took place again last week in Charlotte, S.C.

Byrdsong, who was on Lute Olson’s first staff Arizona, was shot and killed by a white supremacist in 1999 in Skokie, Ill., two years after finishing his stint as Northwestern’s head coach. Nine black people were killed in a hate crime at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last week by a 21-year-old white male.

According to a report by The Daily Northwestern today, a record number of runners and walkers (approximately 5,500) gathered in Evanston, Ill., today for the Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate.

The annual Father’s Day event, which began the year after Byrdsong’s murder, paid tribute to the victims of last week’s shooting in Charleston. Many of those in attendance wrote a message in a book that will be sent to Charleston.


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Sherialyn Byrdsong, Ricky’s widow, offered support to the families of the victims in Charleston before today’s race.

“My prayer is that those families, those communities and the city of Charleston can find their silver lining in this senseless tragedy, as we have,” Byrdsong said to the crowd. “To honor those nine lives, to overcome hate with love, to become more united than divided and to be a better city than they could have ever been before.”

Ricky was killed while jogging with his two children in his Skokie neighborhood by a 21-year-old neo-Nazi on a shooting rampage.

“That was 16 years ago, and just a few days ago nine more people lost their lives because of the same thing,” Sherialyn told The Daily Northwestern. “It’s just terrible, and my heart grieves for those families.”


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The 5K and 10K race, and mile loop for children, is the YMCA’s largest fundraiser with proceeds going to the organization’s racial justice initiatives and youth violence prevention programs.

“It’s a shame that we still have people who just don’t have that love for everyone, and that we have such easy access to guns,” Sherialyn told the Chicago Tribune in another interview about the Charleston shooting. “Why a father would give his 21-year-old son, who obviously is disturbed, a gun?

“It is just beyond me and my heart goes out to those families.” publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He has also written articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.


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