Former NFL player from Petersburg pleads to have Lee Park renamed

Plea for new park name in Petersburg

PETERSBURG, Va. (WWBT) - A former NFL star is pleading for the city of Petersburg to change the name of a popular park that he grew up playing in as a child.

Ricky Hunley appeared in two Super Bowls as a player for the Denver Broncos. The former athlete penned a letter to the mayor asking the city council to re-name Lee Memorial Park, which is named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee. With localities, businesses and even sports teams taking action, Hunley says now is the time to do it.

Memories of Lee Park in Petersburg will never be forgotten for the former athlete who spent lots of time here.

“Lee Park was kind of a special place for us…We started out playing ball right there at Virginia Ave. School and then we were good enough that we made the All-Stars team for baseball and we had to practice at Lee Park,” Hunley recalled.

Hunley was born and raised in Petersburg. Playing for the Denver Broncos, he appeared in two Super Bowls. Although he lives in Los Angeles now, he’s thinking about home.

“Every day during the summer. It was either go to the park or go to the swimming pool,” Hunley said.

Right now, city leaders are considering changing the park’s name, Hunley is urging them to waste no time.

“It’s been a reset for everybody to go back and do a history lesson…If they’ve got their hands in the sand and they’re not recognizing that names need to be changed, monuments of people who have suppressed our people for all these years need to be addressed in some small way. Then things will never change. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting,” he added.

Hunley’s plea comes on the very day the Washington Redskins announced it will retire its name and logo following years of controversy.

“Hail to the Red Tails,” Hunley said with enthusiasm. “If it’s harmful to one group of people, then it’s worth the change because teams change names all the time.”

Now he’s requesting city leaders do the same when it comes to his childhood treasure.

“You got to be the change that you want to see. A lot of people will say they want to see change, but what are you going to do about it?” Hunley added.

The public hearing on this topic will happen on July 21. Petersburg leaders will then say what they think about the matter.

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