Duke and UNC volleyball squads put rivalry aside on video promoting social justice

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- When it comes to Duke and North Carolina, it takes something special for athletes at the respective schools to overlook their ages-old rivalry.

2020 has provided that cause as the Tobacco Road volleyball programs rally against racial inequality.

Internal conversations about race and social justice led to a video titled Bigger Than Blue. A Duke alumnus had the idea for both schools to use their platforms to express unity and love.

"Duke and UNC is a huge rivalry," Blue Devils senior Kincey Smith said. "It's world renowned. So, it's really cool to put our competitive nature aside and come together and for something way bigger than all of us, bigger than volleyball and bigger than the rivalry."

The goal of the video is affirm a commitment to racial unity and to challenge the community to listen to each other and find a deeper level of understanding.

Raleigh native Ade Owokoniran is one of two Black players on the Blue Devils roster. Seeking knowledge as a team, the Duke ladies have met weekly to talk about how Black lives matter.

"It made me realize that wow, my teammates and others are really supporting this movement, really behind me, are sticking to their word that they're going to not only help change not only this country but the future," Owokoniran said. "Seeing my teammates grow in that sense has been really rewarding. There's obviously there's much more growth and much more learning for me as well. But seeing that, seeing them actually wanting to learn is something that is amazing."

Smith, a Wake Forest native, said she believes in the power of numbers, which is why she didn't hesitate to reach out to her UNC counterparts.

"I think that people were kind of shocked to see a video with a bunch of Duke and UNC players together," Smith said. "I got so many questions like, 'was it hard to convince them to work with you guys' and 'what was that like,' and it could not have been a smoother process."

Duke is also trying to help the NC Central volleyball squad, letting the Eagles take over the Blue Devils social media.

"We can lift an HBCU up into that light, this is what we need to start doing," Owokoniran said. "That's what we need to start incorporating into our Instagrams, our social medias."

Hardcore fans don't worry -- when the Blue Devils step out on the court to take on the Tar Heels next month it will still be business as usual.
Copyright © 2021 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.