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UConn athletics calls for action amid nationwide protests

UConn players and coaches are speaking out about the inequality and injustice that the black community faces.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

With nationwide protests after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in the wake of the recent shootings of Ahmad Arbery and Breonna Taylor, UConn athletics is using its platform to respond.

The UConn women’s basketball players released a powerful, unified statement:

As a team we are hurting. We feel responsible for speaking out and advocating for our black community and the injustices we face. Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed, and more people are becoming aware of the 400 years of oppression that black people have been subjected to in America.

We are nauseated by the social injustice and police brutality that is reoccurring toward the black community. So yes, we kneel during the national anthem. Yes, we are rioting. And yes, we are protesting because we are tired of innocent black lives dying at the hands of police officers who do not care about our humanity.

For those who are not black, silence is our biggest betrayal right now. The hardest part is watching friends who are not of color not even question what is happening right now. It’s time for us to start preaching togetherness, justice, and love amongst one another.

We are proud to be a team made of diverse women who will never stop pushing for the most basic rights for our people. Standing up, fighting for what you believe in, and bringing attention to these injustices is the only way it will progress.

As a team, we are here. We are listening. We are woke.

#BlackLivesMatter

The statement specifies that the message comes from the players, but Geno Auriemma supported it with an Instagram post later in the day:

I’m really proud of my team. Agree or disagree if you like. But having lived through the 60s, it was young people standing up that brought meaningful change.

I don’t agree with some of the actions we see playing out. But those are the consequences of being given an opportunity to make changes and disregarding the voices of people in distress.

Yesterday, rising junior Christyn Williams called out colleges and universities for their silence. She pointed out that it is especially problematic considering the revenue schools collect from sports where black student athletes are a majority. Olivia Nelson-Ododa and incoming freshman Aaliyah Edwards also shared the statement from their Twitter accounts. Incoming no. 1 recruit Paige Bueckers shared her thoughts and support a few days ago and also retweeted the statement.

From the men’s basketball team, Josh Carlton voiced his feelings on Thursday while teammates Christian Vital, Tyler Polley, RJ Cole, and Jalen Gaffney also spoke out across the weekend.

Head coach Dan Hurley released a statement as well:

As an athletic department, UConn also joined an anti-racism campaign from Nike which called on everyone to acknowledge the inherent inequality and the problems that are being put on full display at the moment.

UConn men’s soccer head coach Ray Reid also spoke out:

The student-athletes on both soccer teams also released their own statements:

The men’s hockey and baseball program also put out messages of support:

UConn football’s players also joined the movement with a statement, which was also backed by head coach Randy Edsall.

Finally, athletic director David Benedict spoke on behalf of the entire athletic department:

In light of the current situation, it’s critically important for all of us to use our platforms to condemn the racism and prejudice that permeates our society.

These are not issues that affect people halfway across the world, it’s a problem in our own country that directly affects members of the UConn community. We can all contribute to doing a better job in this arena. It is impossible to support these student-athletes on the court for a game yet be silent when they need that same support in situations with real-life consequences.

For more information, we recommend reading your local news coverage and listening to your coworkers, friends and loved ones who may be affected by the events in this nation during this time.