RICHMOND, Va. -- Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball started a program called The Nine and that's attached to Jackie Robinson.
"We were very proud to be one of four captains of The Nine program, which means that we are a team here in Richmond, Virginia, that has stepped out on that issue stepped up on that issue, talked on that issue, acted on that issue of equality, social and civic justice," Richmond Flying Squirrels Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Todd "Parney" Parnell said. "So we are an example to the other 116 teams. I'm really looking forward to Richmond 34 Weekend from the standpoint of that becoming a part of who we are, the tradition that that will become.
The Richmond 34 was a group of Virginia Union University students who conducted a sit-in at Thalhimers department store on February 22, 1960. The Black students were arrested while peacefully protesting at the whites-only lunch counter.
The protest ultimately led to the integration of Thalhimer's and helped lead to the Civil Rights Act of 1962.
"It's been a struggle to keep the [Richmond 34] name alive," Richmond 34 member Elizabeth John Rice said. "Parney and the Flying Squirrels made that possible. He said we're gonna make you a community ambassador and our mission is to eradicate racism. That's what we're trying to do."
She presented her plan to the team.
"Instead of talking about racism, we're going to talk about love, joy, abundance, and gratitude. It's the opposite of racism," she said. "I've never thought about color [working with the Flying Squirrels]. We have been so closely united in what we're trying to do that we just enjoyed each other and shared good things with each other. And so that's what it needs to be."