UVA Instagram Connects With Alums & Cullen Jones For Conversations About Race

As the national conversation about race continues to grow in the aftermath of George Floyd‘s death and the subsequent national protests, University of Virginia’s coaching staff been recording some conversations with some swimming alums with important perspectives to share.

UVA head coach Todd Desorbo and associate head coach Tyler Fenwick kick off the interviews, with Desorbo interviewing several alums one-by-one.

Among those Desorbo talks to: Olympic gold medalist Cullen JonesVirginia alum Trevor Freeland (an ACC team champ in 1987), Jason Webb (an individual ACC champ) and 2006 ACC Swimmer of the Year Brielle White.

You can watch the interviews below:

Trevor Freeland (about 9:00 in), Jason Webb (about 27:00 in), Brielle White (about 36:00 in):

Cullen Jones:

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@cullenjones THANKS FOR JOINING!

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Cullen Jones swam for Desorbo for about six months in 2017, when Desorbo was coaching at North Carolina State University.

Jones tells a few stories from his life. He tells the story of walking his dog the day after Floyd was killed and having a cop turn his car around and drive back to check in on Jones.

“What’s going through my mind is I have to defuse this man who has a gun, to make sure that he understands that I am not a threat,” Jones says. “So I start asking him about his dog. The only reason why I know to do this is because, unfortunately, I’ve been in this situation too many times.”

Jones says he’s been pulled over, yanked from his car and asked to pop the trunk by a police officer, who saw Jones’ swimming equipment bag before recognizing him as “that black swimmer.”

Trevor Freeland grew up swimming for the Philadelphia Department of Recreation program portrayed in the movie Pride. The team was the first predominantly black team to ever attain national rankings. Freeland says he was the first black swimmer in the ACC.

He tells about being stopped on his way into the pool for a meet and having to prove his name was on the heat sheet, despite having a full swim bag. He also talks about attending the 2012 Olympic Trials and being asked to leave the reserved seat section by someone who didn’t realize he had VIP tickets.

Freeland also talks about his time at UVA, swimming for former head coach Mark Bernardino. At the ACC Championships in 1987, a rival swimmer hurled a racial slur at Freeland, who had been taught by his mother not to be confrontational, especially in the South.

“It hurt to let someone say that to you and have to walk away,” Freeland said. When his teammates and coaches found out, Bernardino turned the team bus around to march back to the pool to confront the opposing swimmer’s coach, something Freeland called “one of the proudest moments of my life.”

Jason Webb was another Philadelphia Department of Recreation alum who swam at Virginia in college in the ’90s. He still lives and works in Philadelphia, which has broken out in protests over the past week. He and his wife work in the medical field, and he talks about the feeling of being on edge, not only due to the nationwide protests but also the impact of COVID-19 and the coronavirus he’s seeing every day.

“How do you make the best out of a bad situation? How do we get to talking about it? How do we get an open dialogue?” Webb said, emphasizing the need for discussion and learning.

Brielle White is another in the line of Philadelphia Department of Recreation standouts. She swam for Virginia in the mid-2000s, the same time Jones was swimming for NC State. She talks about a team “ghetto”-themed party she was invited to as a freshman, and the difficulty in bringing up the troublesome connotations of the word “ghetto” and a party themed on racial stereotypes with teammates and friends, people she liked and was on great terms with.

That’s an example, she says, of some unconscious ways people can hurt others, often without knowing it.

“I don’t think that any of those things were conscious, like ‘I’m going to do this to be offensive to Brielle White or to be offensive to black people,’ she said. “I just think there are times that things are so unconscious, so deep-rooted that you don’t even see it. And that’s just the same thing with the justice system.”

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Dont mess with Bernadino or his swimmers. The man is as loyal as the day is long. A GREAT COACH, GREAT MAN and true American. We need more like Coach B!!!!!


I do wish the swimming world could be the one place where politics, race, religion, sexuality could be forgotten… An escape perhaps… But even that seems to be the case. I do understand that swimming news covers the athletes as well in the sense of what’s going on but it is sad that it is this way. Although I still love SwimSwam more than just about anyone.


I get what you are saying but it might be more constructive to watch and listen. If you don’t want to do that there is no real need to comment.
If our team could get a group of experienced swimmers to talk about issues that affect them, I would be all ears.


I can get behind that. I guess, all I am saying is it would be nice to have a place to escape from the world. I have been watching and listening that is why I want that. But then again I understand where you come from as well.

Old Swimmer

I think it is important to understand the privilege of being able to “escape.” Institutional racism and implicit bias is a daily fact in many people’s, including swimmers’, lives (in fact, probably in swimming more than other sports, as a predominantly white sport).


I can agree with that. But I don’t believe that we have institutional racism. Yes, some people are racist, and that is terribly wrong. But to suggest that the fundamentals of an entire nation is inherently racist is intellectually wrong. Yes, people face prejudice, but it is everyone. Right now the police officers are facing prejudice alongside the black community. What happened to Mr. Floyd is terrible and I wish justice for him and his family. The police officer will face the courts. Yes things in this country need to be fixed. But it is a sin problem of the individual and we should address it as such.


Swimmer900: People choose to become police, they don’t choose their race.

Old Swimmer

@swimmer900 Wow. I think you need to do less escaping and more listening and learning. The fact that you don’t believe there is institutional racism and implicit bias says it all.


Can anyone link this article in which I don’t need a WSJ subscription?

Old Swimmer

@hiswimcoach That article is far from an independent reporting on statistics. The author has literally made a career out of trying to paint cops in a more favorable light. She has frequently come out in support of “stop and frisk” policies (which are institutionally racist). The article is nothing but a far right pundit promoting herself.


Ok, look up Ronald fryer’s research if you don’t like that piece. It’s always valuable to seek other perspectives before making conclusions.



I can’t tell if you are parody account


You should be able to X out the box that says you need a subscription and then read the article, you could also google it and it might direct you to a different link. Anyone who disagrees with your worldview (or even questions it) is a parody?

Justin Thompson
Please and thank you

Ha ha ha and there it is. ‘I don’t want to have to see it in the things I read, because I don’t actually think it’s a thing.’


Swimmer900, if institutional racism doesn’t exist, how do you explain the fact that blacks and whites use illegal drugs at similar rates, but blacks are incarcerated for it at a significantly higher rate? How do you explain the fact that black mortgage applicants are approved at a lower rate than equally qualified white applicants? How do you explain dumps and toxic waste sites more frequently being built in black neighborhoods than white? These disparities can’t be explained by individual racists.


Dmswim – perhaps an answer to your first question can be found with this question; why are equally qualified white americans turned down for conventional loans as compared to Asian americans?

I haven’t read anything before on waste sites but thinking about if from a market perspective – waste sites typically require large areas of land with large setbacks.. Naturally, when choosing sites based on cost you would choose land areas which have a lower cost. I would assume that these sites, particularly those in urban areas, are placed in “poorer” neighborhoods…right?


Sorry – incomplete thought on my first comment…why are white americans turned down at higher raters for conventional loans as compared to Asian americans…



Let’s be fair

Lol hate to be that person, but NC State has been doing this for weeks, and UVA just started copying the idea. (Just like they tried to copy NC States Program and energy)

Fact checker

I just went and looked at NC State’s Instagram channel and I didn’t find any mention of race or the experience of black swimmers except for a black square they posted 21 seconds ago.

Let’s be fair

I’m referring to the concept of the weekly videos, NC state started doing there’s on Friday’s, UVA copied the concept but changed it to Tuesday’s. They will probably touch on the subject during their OG show time and idea on Friday.


Bad troll is bad.


Then don’t be that person


First, no one has a copyright on Instagram Live. BUT, the article and my above post has NOTHING to do with weekly Instagram Live events, and everything to do with this week’s discussion. SwimSwam never had an article about NC State’s, Virginia’s or anyone else’s ILs…we can all agree this is generally marketing, recruiting and having some fun banter. Using it as an opportunity to learn, grow and change is newsworthy.

Vanilla Gorilla

Who cares if they did? It’s the right thing to do. Did you also complain about programs copying the use of fins, bouys, and snorkels? Someone did them first, guess no one else can


I agree. Hosting an Instagram live is a pretty generic and obvious step for a coaching staff to take under these conditions.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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