SIU system discusses race and athletics

By Janae Mosby, Staff Reporter

The SIU System Conversation of Understanding held its final discussion on April 27 and the topic discussed was Race and Athletics.

Different conversations the panel had over the course of the 2021 spring semester were Intersectional Discrimination- race, disability and LGBTQIA, International Student Experiences and Higher Education.

The panelists for this discussion explored the history of race and athletics in the United States and they also discussed race and athletics in the athletics program at SIU.

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Other topics addressed were racial underrepresentation in sports and the role of athletes in social justice efforts.

The panel consisted of President of the SIU System Dan Mahony, SIUC athletic director Liz Jarnigan, SIUE athletic director Tim Hall, SIUE track and field coach Marcus Evans and SIUE assistant professor of sociology Isais Smith.

Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the Denver Broncos China Jude, SIUE dean of health and human behavior Robin Hughes and SIUC student athlete Roderick Campbell were also included in the panel.

The conversation began with discussing integration in sports, like Jackie Robinson being the first Black baseball player to play in Major League Baseball, and the history of Black people in sports.

Mahony discussed five myths related to Black athletes in sports, the first myth was the integration of sports came quick and easy after Jackie Robinson.

There continued to be resistance to the integration of sports after Robinson and it took 12 more years for the Boston Red Sox to be the last team to sign a Black player, Mahony said.

The second myth was since people were cheering for black athletes their views related to race changed. 

Mahony said during the early years of integration, Robinson and other Black athletes had to agree to much stricter rules about what they could do on and off the field.

The third myth was that athletes of color took over sports and opportunities for white athletes disappeared. Mahony said white athletes tend to be overrepresented among college athletes.

Access to participation became equitable and provided a good opportunity for social mobility was the fourth myth and the fifth myth was most of the wealth created by sports went to black athletes.

The tradition of Black athletes fighting the social construct of race goes back to the 1960’s with Wilma Rudolph, who was the first Black woman to win three gold medals in the 1960 Olympics and Althea Gibson who was the first Black player to win the U.S. open and Wimbleton, Smith said.

Rose Robinson was an African-American high jumper who refused to stand for the national anthem 60 years before Colin Kapernick decided to kneel. 

Smith said athletes use their platforms to spread awareness about these social issues and protesting in sports has become a social phenomenon.

Jarnigan said diversity and inclusion in the SIU athletics program was at the utmost importance for the coaches and administrators.

She mentioned Donald Boylston who was credited with bringing diversity to the SIUC athletics department in the 1950’s. He was responsible for recruiting the first  black student athletes to Carbondale.

Black student athletes face a lot of stereotypes both internally and externally and being a student athlete that is Black, Campbell said he carries the burden of explaining different situations to his teammates who are not Black, like George Floyd.

Campbell said it is important for student athletes to stand up and speak their hearts because if they don’t, no one would know how they feel or what they go through.

Staff reporter Janae Mosby can be reached at jmosby@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter at @mosbyj.

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