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Jerry Falwell Jr. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

At least four Black staff members and four Black athletes have left the evangelical Liberty University in Virginia following a tweet by university president Jerry Falwell Jr. that mocked Gov. Ralph Northam's blackface scandal, AP reports.

Why it matters: Falwell, an ally of President Trump, has drawn criticism for his political positions in the past, including his decision to bring students back to campus in March despite the threat of the coronavirus. But people involved with the university "have become more willing to openly criticize the university’s approach to race and diversity" in recent weeks, according to AP.

  • The news comes amid a national conversation about the legacy of racism in America, spurred by the killing of George Floyd.

The backdrop: In a now-deleted tweet from late May, Falwell wrote that he opposed Northam's mandate for Virginians to wear masks “until I decided to design my own.” Attached to the tweet was a picture of a mask bearing a photo of someone wearing blackface that appeared on Northam’s medical yearbook page, made public last year.

  • 35 of the school's Black alumni denounced Falwell and suggested he step down in a letter sent to him days after the incident, AP reported in early June.
  • Falwell apologized for the tweet a week later: “When I was swinging at the governor, I inadvertently hit some people that love me ... the Liberty African American community.”

The big picture: The percentage of Black students who make up Liberty's resident undergraduate classes dropped from 13% in 2007 to just 5% in 2019, according to internal documents obtained by AP.

  • The people who are leaving the university include a diversity retention director, one basketball player and three football players.

Go deeper

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam tests positive for coronavirus

Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and his wife, Pamela, both tested positive for coronavirus, his office announced on Friday.

The state of play: The Northams were tested after one of their staff "who works closely within the couple's living quarters" tested positive. The governor is asymptomatic, while his wife is "experiencing mild symptoms." They plan to isolate at home for 10 days.

2 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Democrats target billionaires

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

After failing to get a deal on other planned tax increases, key Senate Democrats are pivoting to a billionaires' income tax to pay for President Biden's social spending.

The big picture: No advanced economy has attempted anything similar on such a scale.

Anti-abortion activists' Supreme Court dreams are coming true

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela. Photos: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

This is the moment the conservative legal movement has been building toward for decades: The solidly conservative Supreme Court is about to hear two major abortion cases within a month of each other.

Why it matters: All of this is likely to end with significant new restrictions on abortion and a clear path for Republican-led states to win the next big abortion cases, too — the culmination of a long and bitter fight for control of the judiciary.

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