Race, Sport and Activism Panel discuses intersection between sports and political activism

Former and current UConn student athletes react to various political videos including ones pertaining to Colin Kaepernick. The athletes highlight the strength in numbers when making a sacrifice for racial equality. (Eric Wang/The Daily Campus)

Sports activism has become an increasingly controversial topic in news media, with many people both for and against the peaceful protests done by NFL players. In response to this, UConn Athletics, Sport Management Program and Collective Uplift co-sponsored the Race, Sport and Activism Panel.

The purpose of this panel, moderated by Dr. Joseph Cooper, was to give student athletes a chance to discuss the subjects of race, sport and activism. The panel was comprised of Deshon Foxx, Aaron Garland, Folorunso Fatukasi, Angelo Pruitt, Kelli Thomas and Tyrae Sims, all of whom are current or former UConn student athletes. The panelists were able to provide an incredibly interesting view on how race and activism exist within sports.

The event began with a brief history of sport activism. Cooper discussed prominent black athletes and scholars throughout history who worked to create change in our country through activism. The final figure was Colin Kaepernick, whose activism has been a recent source of controversy in the United States.

Cooper explained that, in order to create change, activism needs to make people feel uncomfortable.

“Activism, by definition, involves disruption,” Cooper said. “The discomfort is not meant to offend people, the discomfort is meant to get people to reflect, to get people to think about how to improve on our conditions.”

The short presentation ended with three videos. The first was of Colin Kaepernick describing why he decided to start peacefully protesting, while the other two videos showed Trump and President Obama’s reactions to Kaepernick’s activism.

Cooper was sure to include the videos in his first question to the panelists, asking them for their response to the clips. Many of the panelists discussed how the recent election has divided our country, and how Trump’s comments did not help the situation. Panelists also brought up the fact that the civil rights movement happened not too long ago, and how our country needs to make changes through activism going forth.

The next question asked panelists how they perceived athletes that engaged in activism, and what role athletes and sports play in social justice both inside and outside sporting spaces. The panelists all thought that players should be willing to speak up and be active while participating in social justice movements.

“It’s very important for them to use their voice to make sure that people are being treated fairly,” Sims said. “Everybody deserves to have the same rights.”

The final question asked the athletes if they would engage in activism while they were actively playing and what recommendations they had in making positive changes in society. The active players talked about the importance of supported by fellow teammates, which make their activism more powerful.

Thomas, the only female athlete on the panel, mentioned how gender affects her activism. Several of the former athletes had wished that they were more active when they were playing, and one said that he had been reprimanded for his activism.

The event ended with a short question-and-answer session, which allowed the panelists to expand on many of the topics touched upon in the event.

“Sometimes you just don’t know what athletes go through,” former student-athlete and seventh-semester communication and psychology double major, Chinedu Amonu, said. “I just felt like this was an interesting way for regular students to tap into what athletes go through and know it’s not all sweet. Things do happen.”


Lauren Brown is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at lauren.brown@uconn.edu.