USC student-athletes demand change to promote diversity
Sports/Games

USC student-athletes demand change to promote diversity

As a new wave of social activism has swept through college athletics, student-athletes at USC spoke out Wednesday to demand change at the university.

Student-athletes at USC announced on Twitter that they have started the United Black Student-Athletes Association to “combat racial inequality” within the athletic department.

On behalf of this organization, track student-athlete Anna Cockrell sent a letter to USC athletic director Mike Bohn.

“We are not student-athletes who happen to be Black, but Black students who happen to be athletes. Our Blackness is not something we can turn off,” the letter read. “We are hurting, and we feel compelled to make a statement and urge USC and USC Athletics to take bold, decisive action to combat racial inequality and support Black students.”

The letter, which was also shared by USC offensive lineman Jalen McKenzie, has certain demands for the athletic department. Some examples include:

• Stating that Black lives matter;

• Making Election Day a mandatory day off for student-athletes so they can vote;

• Promising no retaliation should a student-athlete choose to protest or voice support for Black Lives Matter;

• Implementing mandatory implicit bias training;

• Making efforts to make more diverse hires.

“Two areas within the Department that have a glaring lack of diversity are Sports Psychology and Athletic Medicine,” the letter states. “While we recognize that USC maintains a Sports Psychology department when many other universities do not, it is a travesty that USC Athletics does not employ any Black pyschologists.”

Last week, USC removed the name of former university president Rufus Von KleinSmid from the school’s center for international and public affairs in light of his support for eugenics. Earlier in the month, USC revoked a fan’s football season tickets in light of comments the fan made calling on police to shoot Black Lives Matter protesters.

The student-athletes’ letter acknowledged this latter incident and other actions by the USC athletic department.

“While we recognize that Athletic Director Mike Bohn and many coaches have issued statements of support … there is much more work to be done,” the letter reads. “It is not enough for the Athletic Department to release public statements and post on social media. They must support their words with sustained action and commitment to the Black community.”

In a statement released in response to the student-athletes, Bohn announced he is forming a USC Athletics Black Lives Matter Action Team that has “the ultimate goal of developing a series of meaningful and substantive actions and reforms for implementation.”

In his response, Bohn announced his support for the UBSAA and its mission at USC.

“I enthusiastically encourage our students to use their platforms to effect change and we are excited to work together – student-athletes, coaches, and staff – to make real and meaningful impact,” Bohn stated. “We all share the same commitment to building an inclusive athletics program that provides our student-athletes with a safe and supportive environment.”

The United Black Student-Athletes Association’s letter also asks for student-athletes to be included in the conversation about re-opening the athletic department in light of COVID-19, noting that the pandemic has disproportionately affected the Black community.

“USC Athletics recently sent out a survey to find out how students are feeling, but so far that has been the lone opportunity for us to speak on the subject,” the letter reads. “While we are eager to return, our health must not be put at risk for the sake of bringing sports back and generating revenue.”

While Pac-12 schools began bringing student-athletes back to campus this week, USC has yet to announce any plans to do so.

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Susan Scott
Susan Scott contributes to our Sports/Games section. She is a sports enthusiast and brings energy and warmth to the team with her constant quips and snippets from the sporting world. Her dedication to sports leaks into her work as well. Her stories are unique perspectives into the sporting world that take the ordinary man into the shoes of the athletes. She is a talented sportsperson herself, with many accolades under her belt already. What stops her from becoming a professional athlete is her inclination towards writing for sports more than sports itself !

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