A painting of a raised fist and the letters BLM are now painted on the Smith Center hardwood in support of Black lives, according to a press release Monday.
The paint job, which includes BLM – an abbreviation for Black Lives Matter – will be on full display at volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball games. The addition demonstrates “a commitment” to educating people about the plight of Black Americans, the release states.
“We believe that, along with our words and actions, it is important for our Black colleagues and students to see evidence of true support as we fight racist ideas and work to root out racism in our country,” Athletic Director Tanya Vogel said in the release.
The release states that GW is making a visual stand against racial injustice, like the WNBA, NBA and other teams and programs have done in recent months. The raised fist refers to Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two Black American sprinters who protested racial injustice at the 1968 Olympics by raising their fist to the national anthem during the medal ceremony.
Women’s basketball head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said in the release that her program and the athletic department are “proud” to support Black athletes. Rizzotti previously spoke about social justice and sports at an Elliott School of International Affairs event, and players joined an organization earlier this fall focused on promoting equality.
“It is imperative that we use our voices and our platform to condemn racism in its many forms,” she said in the release. “We will thoughtfully educate ourselves and each other on the Black experience in America. This will serve as a reminder of our responsibility in that effort, particularly for Black women who are sometimes left out of the conversation.”
Men’s basketball head coach Jamion Christian said in the release that his parents cautioned him about the treatment he would endure as a Black man. Christian added that he is now teaching his son the same message, adding that he hopes America can improve in the future.
“I love our country, and I refuse to believe that the most powerful country in the world cannot be better,” Christian said. “This is part of us standing up for one another and the rights that each of us are afforded.”
The release states that the addition on the court is just the beginning of GW’s efforts to become a place of “justice, freedom and peace.” The department created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion task force in September, and staff is currently piecing together a Black Student-Athlete Alliance.
“We are committed to promoting and developing anti-racist and pro-Black communities,” volleyball head coach Sarah Bernson said in the release. “This is from a place of love and conviction. We are dedicated to fighting for our Black colleagues that need to be heard and supported and especially for the Black students and their allies on campus.”