Delaware State University is a historically Black university, and about 70 percent of the team members are Black, according to its coach, Pamella Jenkins.
The team bus was returning to Delaware from a game in Florida on the morning of April 20 when the police in Georgia stopped the bus driver, Ms. Jenkins said in an interview. The driver pulled over and off a highway exit ramp, she said, and an officer came on board, saying the bus was wrongly driving in the left lane.
Within five minutes, she said, one of the student athletes called attention to officers pulling backpacks, team duffel bags and other belongings out from underneath the bus — for inspection by a drug-sniffing dog. Then, two officers came onto the bus announcing a drug search in an interaction that Ms. Jenkins, who is Black, called “racially motivated.”
“When he brought up narcotics dogs, the first thing he went to was marijuana, which stereotypically is associated with African American people,” said Ms. Jenkins. She added that the officer had an “accusatory tone: He wasn’t asking.”
When a student asked how the routine traffic stop had escalated into a drug search, she said, an officer replied that charter buses on that section of the highway were known for smuggling narcotics and people. Though nervous and scared, Ms. Jenkins said she tried to remain calm, as students gathered near the window to peer outside and others sat in shock. She said she was worried that one wrong word could ignite the situation.
The university’s student newspaper, The Hornet, published an article about the traffic stop by Sydney Anderson, a member of the team. Ms. Anderson and other team members did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Ms. Anderson wrote in the article that the police tried to have the players admit they had drugs, and she accused them of conducting an unlawful search without probable cause. She said the “majority of the team members had never experienced an encounter with the police, making this a traumatic incident for them.”