Racism in Higher Education, NCAA Athletics, & NCAA Gymnastics Part 2

Since the release of my previous article “Racism in NCAA Gymnastics,” I received feedback from many current & former student-athletes, coaches on all levels, friends, family, and strangers. The majority of the responses have been supportive and positive, but there are always going to be detractors and negative responses when speaking out on something like this.

Upon releasing the article on Friday, June 5th, the unnamed institution’s athletic department referred to in my article, made a statement about the racial injustices happening in this country.

Although, the President of the university released the following statement on June 1st, that didn’t say anything productive in the the fight against racism.

All the photos associated with the intrasquad from the official team Instagram account have been removed, along with the article recap posted on the athletic department’s website. But as of now, while this is being published, this university has not made a statement addressing the racist photos of “Cowboys vs. Indians” or any other situations addressed in the previous article. 

This athletic department had not made any statement (only a black box for #blackouttuesday on Tuesday, June 2nd) about the racial injustices, until after my article was released, Friday morning around 9:30am. On that day, June 5th, at 4:49pm the athletic department released the statement below regarding the racial injustices.

This statement is garbage, because it lacks any substance or commitment to the racial injustice issue at hand. The three main issues I have with this statement are as follows:

  • Not Being Anti-Racist

The athletic departments states they are “against racism.” In today’s society, that is NOT ENOUGH, you must be ANTI-RACIST. This athletic department is NOT Anti-Racist. To be an Anti-Racist, is to actively shutdown racism, speak out against a racist joke, telling someone it is not okay to sing N-word, and having the uncomfortable conversation when someone says something racist. To be against racism, is a passive position.

  • Diversity & Inclusion Training

The athletic department states they will develop programming and initiatives for coaches and student athletes on diversity and inclusion. This is something they were already doing once a semester. This is clearly not enough. Bringing in a speaker once a semester for staff and student athletes was not sufficient, and doing it two or three times a semester will not make a difference.

  • Affirmative Action

As an institution, we have established a goal to improve our recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and staff… Athletics as well, and we must work to improve our recruitment efforts to provide greater opportunities for minorities…”

The university and athletic department is stating, ‘We are going to hire more minority people as coaches and administrators and recruit more minority student athletes.’ This is something you SHOULD HAVE ALREADY BEEN DOING! Affirmative Action is not a solution to the current problem. This law has been in place since 1961.

Not once did this university or the athletic department state, “BLACK LIVES MATTER,” “White silence is violence,” or show support for student athletes that want to speak out! The student athletes are silenced, and it shows.

Below is the only comment from the statement posted by the athletic department, it is from a former student athlete:

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All universities and institutions of higher education need to actively make statements with the following five points made in them:

  1. State, “Black Lives Matter” in every statement on this subject.
  2. State, “White silence is violence” in every statement on this subject.
  3. State, “One statement is not enough.”
  4. Show support to student athletes speaking out against the injustices, instead of silencing them.
  5. Give the student athletes a platform to protest.

A great example of how an athletic department needs to handle this situation, would be Temple University. The following is there statement on the racial injustices:

Temple Athletics shows they support the Black Lives Matter movement, they state that one statement is not enough, and that this is an ongoing issue. They state, they are anti-racist, they flat out say, “white silence is violence.” They show full support to student athletes speaking out against racism and provide them a platform to be heard; along with a student athlete led protest. The statement calls upon fans, to support these student athletes off the field in this movement, because they support them on the field.

This is the model for how an athletics department and any other department within higher education institution should handle the current issue of racial injustices.

Temple University’s School of Sport, Tourim, & Hospitality Management (STHM) and the FOX School of Business have been sending out multiple emails about the current racial injustices. The following are two emails from this week that include links to educational resources and how to make a change.

Solution

The first step in moving in the right direction would be to speak out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement as an institution and department. It needs to start from the top with the President of the University, to the Athletic Director, administrators, Head Coaches, professors, assistant coaches, down to volunteer coaches. They all need to speak out as anti-racist and fully support students and student athletes that desire to speak out. Many student athletes are seeking to speak out in support of this movement, but are fearful of losing a scholarship, getting kicked off their team, being reprimanded, or being ostracized by their teammates. It is the administration’s responsibility to make students and student athletes feel supported when speaking out as anti-racist and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Reflecting on Responses

It is NEVER acceptable to defend racism. Ignorance is not an excuse, anyone working in higher education needs to educate themselves on what they have said that is racist. 

I have read apologies made by industry professionals, and they mean nothing if they don’t take ownership or are vague in their offenses. Those who have need to understand what they did was racist, and work on educating themselves extensively. If this is not done, there is no room in higher education for people like this in any type of leadership role.

Below are some other good examples of statements from athletic departments and institutions, showing support for their students and student athletes in the Black Lives Matter movement and continuing the education and conversation.

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