Sole Black Duke Lacrosse Player Says White Teammates Stereotyped


Tensions Rising

As tensions throughout Durham rose with the quickening pace of the investigation, Sherwood found himself in the middle of an escalating conflict.

Two of his teammates had been indicted. A third indictment was in the air. A team member said there had been threats of drive-by shootings.

The case was the talk of the town and the nation. Protests were launched, on and off campus. The county courthouse was a daily mob scene. The forthcoming district attorney election was a neck-and-neck race. The media were everywhere.

But there were moments of levity.

In late April, days before the primary election, the New Black Panther Party threatened to march onto campus, armed, and conduct its own interrogations of the players.

Counterprotesters -- among them, white supremacists -- emerged and vowed to meet the Panthers at the gates of the school.

Sherwood's mother began to worry about her son, as she saw images of the protests on television from her Freeport, N.Y., home.

She and other family members began calling around, trying to locate Sherwood in Durham and make sure he was safe.

Time passed, and no one could seem to find him.

When they finally got him, he answered the phone, groggy and annoyed.

"Yeah," he said. "I'm asleep in bed. You woke me up."

His mother said she always laughed when she told that story.

Re-Election Bid

Sherwood said he felt Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong had used race "to his advantage to get re-elected."

"I think he's used that. He's used … the black people of Durham -- and the white people of Durham -- as well."

Nifong indicted two players -- Colin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann -- two weeks before a tight primary election that he won by a margin of 3 percent.

Two weeks after the election, he indicted Duke lacrosse captain Dave Evans.


Sherwood said he had felt a deep camaraderie with his teammates since the day he joined the team as a walk-on player.

"I had one brother when I came to Duke. Now I have 47 brothers. … Forty-six of them just happen to be white," he said

Sherwood's parents were both Duke graduates, and his father, Charles, from the undergraduate class of '75, is believed to have been Duke lacrosse's first black player.

The younger Sherwood turned down a scholarship at another school to play at Duke, where he said he felt most comfortable after meeting with Pressler.

Sherwood said the entire experience, which he said had torn apart the lives of his teammates and their families, had also strengthened the bond between the young men.

"We're almost inseparable," he said. "We have a bond for life that no one else has. We know that we're in a unique situation."

"And it's something to be … definitely something to remember. I wouldn't say I think 'cherish' is the right word, but … it's something that is very unique and that you can definitely remember for the rest of your life -- and know that if you have a problem or if you need to talk to somebody that you can call any one of those 46 guys. And that they'll be glad, they'll gladly want to listen, to try and help in any way they possibly can."

He said he was a little bit haunted by the absence of his teammates.

Evans graduated, and Finnerty and Seligmann have been suspended from the university because of the criminal charges against them.

"It hurts," he said. "Like, you walk. … And you see [their] lockers, just empty, nothing there."

"It's kind of like -- it's not -- I don't want to say ghosts."

"But it's just like, you know, you wish they were there with you."

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