GREENSBORO, N.C. – The Atlantic Coast Conference has announced the recipients of the inaugural ACC UNITE Award, which was created to honor individuals affiliated with the league who have made an impact in the areas of racial and social justice.

The UNITE Award is an initiative of the ACC’s Committee for Racial and Social Justice (CORE – Champions of Racial Equity) and was developed and approved by its 15 member institutions.

The UNITE Award will be presented annually to individuals who:

  • Best exemplify ACC CORE’s mission to promote and encourage racial equity and social justice through education, partnerships, engagement and advocacy;
  • Have helped create meaningful, lasting change by improving systems, organizational structures, policies, practices and attitudes;
  • Have been a pioneer and/or helped pave the way for minorities either at the institution or in the community.

In the first year of the award, the league is celebrating the individuals who – according to available information – are the first male and female athletes of color to integrate the athletic teams at each current ACC institution. Each school will honor its recipients during the current academic year.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to recognize the amazing pioneers in our league,” said ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips, Ph.D. “As a conference, we are thrilled to celebrate these deserving individuals as we continue our commitment to racial and social justice. As we look to the future, our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion will remain steadfast.”

Virginia athletics announced George King III and Sharlene Brightly as its honorees.

George King III became the first African-American student-athlete to compete at Virginia. He was a freshman letterwinner on the 1964-65 wrestling team and also played on the freshman lacrosse team that spring. A native of Charlottesville, he was a member of the undefeated state championship Lane High School football team in 1963.

A native of Charlottesville, Mr. King went on to earn a degree from Hampton Institute after serving in the United States Air Force. He enjoyed a career as a technical advisor for Aerojet Electrosystems and as a data security analyst for the UVA medical system. Both Mr. King’s father and grandfather also worked for the UVA medical system. A former president of the Charlottesville NAACP, Mr. King still resides in Charlottesville.

Sharlene Brightly, from Richmond, was a member of the University’s first varsity women’s basketball team in 1973-74 when she was a second-year student. She previously played on the Virginia club basketball team as a freshman at UVA. Brightly lettered again during the program’s second season before electing to concentrate on her academic requirements during her final year at the University.

She earned her undergraduate degree in 1976 in linguistics and went on to have a long career in network operations in the telecommunications field in northern Virginia. Active in her community, she was a member of the board of directors for Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic of Metropolitan Washington, D.C.

“It is my pleasure to announce Mr. King and Ms. Brightly as Virginia’s initial Unite Award recipients,” said Virginia director of athletics Carla Williams. “Their love for sport helped to break down barriers and blaze trails for generations of future Wahoos. We join the ACC in saluting you and all of the other Unite Award recipients across the league.”