Coaches and athletic department officials have released statements over the past week expressing support for black student-athletes and denouncing recent episodes of police brutality.
Athletic Director Tanya Vogel said Monday that her staff has been reflecting on the police killings of three black Americans – Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd – and urged members of the GW athletics community to speak out against racism and push for social justice. More than a dozen athletic programs also condemned recent events of police violence and called on its team members to cultivate a more inclusive space.
“We will take steps forward, together,” Vogel said in a release. “We owe this to the world. We owe it to our students and staff members of color. We owe it to our teammates and friends.”
The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee condemned “all acts of police brutality, racism and other acts of discrimination related to race, gender, sexuality and religion” in an Instagram post Wednesday. Members voiced support for the Black Lives Matter movement and pushes from the Black Student Union and Black Men’s Initiative to improve the racial climate on campus and students’ relationship with police.
SAAC encouraged student-athletes to utilize their platforms to share resources and petitions responding to recent events of police brutality. The organization added that student-athletes should recognize their biases and fight against racism.
“Reach out to your community and let them know you stand with your black teammates, family and friends,” SAAC said in the statement. “The battle for equality does not stop once the protests end: we must continue to evolve and fight for our fellow athletes and family. Sawubona.”
The men’s basketball team released a video Monday of the coaching staff and players reciting quotes by prominent civil rights activists like Malcom X, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. Athletes said they will use their voice to unite against racial injustice.
Men’s head basketball coach Jamion Christian released a personal statement Saturday reacting to the footage of Floyd’s death as an African American man. He said the country must act better and called on people to enact change.
“We all have breath, and with each breath, we have hope,” Christian said in his statement. “With that breath, we also have the ability to change. What will you do with your breath?”
Women’s basketball head coach Jennifer Rizzotti responded to Christian’s statement Saturday, vowing to speak up about the “issues that matter” and encourage her athletes to condemn racial injustice. Rizzotti said in the tweet that she will ensure athletes participate in difficult conversations and listen to one another, and she will “take action” by donating and voting.
The women’s basketball program also released a statement Saturday promising to meet as a team and discuss how to use their voices to help influence change.
“We are all hurting, and silence is as harmful as violence,” the team said in a tweet. “We won’t stand for the injustice and racism in our community and our country. We will use our voices and platform to help support and protect each other. Our team is committed to making a difference #BlackLivesMatter.”
The volleyball program wrote in a tweet Saturday it is “committed in continual work, discussions and action” in support of black student-athletes and all people of color on campus. The team also attached a guide from the BSU on how to effectively support black communities.
Head coach Marci Robles responded to a statement from U.S. Rowing, writing in a tweet Wednesday that rowing operates in an “overwhelmingly white space” and all non-black members need to “acknowledge that we’ve played a large role in perpetuating the lack of diversity in our sport.”
She said the organization needs to ensure safety and support for “black athletes, coaches, referees and staff members” and discuss accountability. She added that coaches should examine how they lead within their communities.
“It starts with awareness of how we speak to and about each other, how we speak about our athletes, and how we speak to and about each other,” Robles said in a statement. “It’s on us to educate ourselves on the impact of microaggressions and learn how to effectively disarm them. It is on us to create safe environments where we can have tough but necessary conversations.”
At least 14 other teams and coaches – including men’s rowing; women’s and men’s soccer; women’s and men’s tennis; lacrosse; men’s and women’s swimming and diving; men’s and women’s cross country and track and field; softball; baseball; and volleyball – spoke out against police brutality and called on its members to condemn racism and fight for racial justice.