Vandals defaced a statue of Arthur Ashe Wednesday with “White Lives Matter” and “WLM” graffiti in Richmond, Virginia, where the Black tennis icon, humanitarian and civil rights activist grew up.
A white man was spotted spray-painting the base with “White Lives Matter,” a racist counter-slogan to the Black Lives Matter movement that has gained momentum since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“Don’t all lives matter?” the man told a Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter observing him. “I’m not a racist. I just don’t agree with people desecrating property.”
“BLM” was spray-painted over previous “WLM” tags on the statue before the man arrived, according to the newspaper.
“There are people who have an agenda,” David Harris Jr., Ashe’s nephew, told the Times-Dispatch. “Some of them are still settling on hate and discord because they see the system changing before them, and they’re lacking influence and control over it.”
Volunteers later erased all the graffiti.
Ashe, who died in 1993, was the first Black man to win Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open.
Ashe’s statue stands among several honoring historical figures of the Confederacy on Monument Avenue, the New York Post noted. Many of the city’s statues commemorating the South’s military in the Civil War have been pulled down, tagged or scheduled for removal amid protests.
Police are investigating leads in the Ashe statue vandalism, CBS in Richmond reported in the segment above.