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The burden of being a student athlete in american colleges

The fight for a field 629 days before Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the national anthem on a late summer night last year, Mikayla Cowling pulled out her phone and opened up Twitter.

Until then, though, Dec. Cowling was lounging in a hotel room with her teammates a few hours before their game against Long Beach State when she began scrolling through her feed.

The High Cost of College Athletics and Your Tuition

No one knew who was responsible or why it was there. All Cowling understood in that moment was that the image taken on the campus she was about to represent in competition stung in a deeply personal way. Her teammates had seen it, too. Because at first we thought the campus was against us. Hate crimes being done to our young ppl.

The burden of representation

We must stand ferguson pic. Recently, there had been a lot to discuss. And less than a month before the effigy was hung at UC Berkeley, a 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by police after an officer mistook his toy gun for a real one. It felt like we needed to do something now. Hesitant to represent the school they now felt betrayed by, some players came up with the idea of wearing their uniforms inside out for the entirety of the game. Then-sophomore forward KC Waters had an idea: What if each player wore a shirt with the name of a different historical victim of racial injustice written on the front with the year of their death scrawled beneath during warmups?

The idea struck a chord with the team: It acknowledged the deep-rooted and institutional nature of each killing and was practical enough to get done in the ticking minutes before the game. The team and coaches were on board. Still distraught from the shock of the image, everyone got to work. Associate head coach Charmin Smith and assistant coach Kai Felton hustled to Target the burden of being a student athlete in american colleges pick up the necessary materials.

Meanwhile, players at the hotel began researching the names and dates they wanted spelled out on their shirts. As the clock inched forward toward the 4 p.

Players started telling managers what to write on duct tape: One by one, players started lining tape onto the shirts. The display was ready to go. The team wore the T-shirts all throughout warmups and acted in solidarity when the national anthem played; every team member raised her hands above her head for the entirety of the anthem, a symbol of innocence that had been ignored too many times by police in recent months.

It had been a long, emotional day. Gottlieb, though, issued a statement as glowing as she ever has about her players after the game. They want to be part of a solution, and they took the steps that were in their power today. A closer look, though, reveals just how exceptional that moment in a mostly empty Long Beach State basketball gymnasium on a Saturday afternoon in December really was. The most complicated of questions can often be asked with one simple word. Histories of activism On Nov.

Soccer balls lay strewn across the pitch, players had just finished lacing up their cleats, and coaches began yelling out commands. All Clark had to do was look to the sky, though, to assure herself that something was indeed very different about this day. It was there that the helicopters were circling directly over the practice field, making so much noise as to nearly drown out the chants and bullhorns coming from Sproul Plaza.

It was three days after election night. Should I even be here right now? Professional athletes across sports responded en masse. Kaepernick started a movement in August 2016 when he began kneeling in the name of racial injustice and police brutality during the customary pregame ritual of the playing of the national anthem. Even Kaepernick, though, is the byproduct of the history that came before him.

It can be traced back to Muhammad Ali, who refused induction into the U. Army on principle after being drafted to fight in the Vietnam War in 1967. And it is an act downright impossible to imagine without Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who both raised black-gloved fists on the podium during the U. Tommie Smith and John Carlos. In one example of a team-wide activist movement, the University of Missouri football team joined campus demonstrations in 2015 to address the both institutional and overt racism the school had been prone to since its founding by refusing to participate in any football-related activities until a series of demands was met.

Despite the efficiency of the Missouri boycott, though, student-athlete activism continues to lag behind the displays seen at the professional level. That gap could be explained by schools with politically laid-back reputations as being the byproduct of a more tame social activist culture. Student-athlete detachment In theory, to be a student at UC Berkeley is to be inextricably linked to that history of activism.

And for the majority of students on campus, that is almost certainly the case. In talking the burden of being a student athlete in american colleges those involved in the UC Berkeley athletics community, however, very few student-athletes feel a strong connection to that past. Unable to find landlords willing to rent him apartments or find roommates with the same skin color in school dorms, Edwards and Black athletes at SJSU faced a perpetual housing crisis, squeezed into run-down basements as white peers enjoyed proper student housing.

While nationwide movements were being led by Martin Luther King, Jr. A football game was canceled as a result of the magnitude of the ensuing movement, which, after stretching across more than 100 college campuses, is the most widespread example of student-athlete activism ever.

Edwards soon joined the UC Berkeley faculty as a sociology professor in 1970, where he taught classes on the sociology of sport for more than 30 years. Now a consultant for the San Francisco 49ers, Edwards gives regular talks to this day about sports in society. UC Berkeley professor emeritus Harry Edwards. So what you have is a vast cultural crevice between the traditional role expectations and centrality of the sports community on campus.

For Vincent Johnson, an offensive lineman for Cal from 2013 to 2016, fitting into the larger student body and sociopolitical climate was difficult.

  1. For Vincent Johnson, an offensive lineman for Cal from 2013 to 2016, fitting into the larger student body and sociopolitical climate was difficult. And in some cases, as Johnson made clear, student-athlete priorities are set up directly antithetically to campus culture as a whole because of the adversarial nature between the student-athletes and the, well, NARPs.
  2. Recently, there had been a lot to discuss. Hesitant to represent the school they now felt betrayed by, some players came up with the idea of wearing their uniforms inside out for the entirety of the game.
  3. While nationwide movements were being led by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  4. Unable to find landlords willing to rent him apartments or find roommates with the same skin color in school dorms, Edwards and Black athletes at SJSU faced a perpetual housing crisis, squeezed into run-down basements as white peers enjoyed proper student housing. It can be traced back to Muhammad Ali, who refused induction into the U.
  5. He chose UC Berkeley, though, for reasons far beyond football. Some form of transfer must occur at most of these institutions from tuition revenues to athletics departments to fund those deficits in the athletics departments.

And they all talked about the NARP dynamic. That affinity, though, is rarely given the chance to be associated with the same values the rest of the student body holds so dear. And in some cases, as Johnson made clear, student-athlete priorities are set up directly antithetically to campus culture as a whole because of the adversarial nature between the student-athletes and the, well, NARPs. On the precipice of preparing for his senior year, he knew his time as a student-athlete, and therefore his time with an elevated platform, would soon be coming to its conclusion.

That had never really been an issue for Westerfield on campus. He was too focused on simply staying afloat individually during his freshman and sophomore years to look beyond what was happening on the football field and in the classroom. But as Westerfield watched the Kaepernick movement ripple through the sports community, he began to feel it, too.

Westerfield started opening up dialogues with other student-athletes, finding many of them privy to exactly the kind of institutional and societal issues raised by Kaepernick. In Austin, the dynamics each of the student-athletes had become almost numb to on campus were validated by the experiences of other student-athletes they met.

Smith-Gooden said a discussion on intersectionality is what affected her the most. Currently, about 25 regular members come to every meeting. Westerfield wants to see that number continue to grow, but the very existence of the group is an achievement in itself. Student-athlete-spokesperson At a the burden of being a student athlete in american colleges boasting hundreds of recognized student clubs and groups, the creation of the BSAC may seem insignificant. Its conception, however, marked the first time student-athletes, and particularly student-athletes of color, had a space to themselves to discuss the issues the larger campus culture had previously stifled from being discussed in the open.

He said the NCAA is ultimately responsible for hindering the student-athlete voice because its leaders cannot relate to the experiences of everyday student-athletes. But while the suppressive culture within athletics is undoubtedly less overt on campus, student-athletes cited reason after reason for why they feel unwilling or unable to speak out.

Westerfield, for example, mentioned how lost he would have been as a freshman without the strict guidelines inherent in life as a student-athlete. Each Cal student-athlete sits in on meetings before every season to go over media rules and acceptable posts to make on social media. At her level, players are free to manage their online profiles autonomously.

Clark, now at Maryland, broke down how she would deal with the media in a hypothetical scenario in which she were to protest something as a student-athlete. In that sense, student-athletes should really have a third word attached with a hyphen at the end of their title: We have to represent ourselves carefully.

For many players, the effects of that environment are palpable. Football players Johnson and Westerfield, though, both said they felt new head coach Justin Wilcox would be in support of a protest as long as it was agreed to by the team and that the head coach has tried to give his players more freedom during his first year on the job.

A main reason for that? Hours in the day. Smith-Gooden said that during her busiest semesters at UC Berkeley, she was up at 6 a. The volleyball player probably had the most optimistic outlook of any the burden of being a student athlete in american colleges who agreed to speak for this story.

Even she admits that staying fully engaged politically is impossible. During her nearly four years on campus, she has given a lot of herself to the school. At the capital of college activism, it is unlikely that any of them will. For professor emeritus Edwards, a man who has devoted his life to fostering athlete statements of protests, this can be attributed to campus leaders and, more broadly, a lack of leadership in the activist community.

The struggle has to continue. The club has garnered nearly universal respect among Black student-athletes on campus, with upperclassmen coming up to Westerfield regularly, saying how nice it would have been to have the group as a freshman or sophomore.

A top recruit coming out of high school, Westerfield had his fair share of choices of colleges to attend, including more historically dominant football powers. He chose UC Berkeley, though, for reasons far beyond football. They were fighting for you to be a slave.

For now, though, Westerfield will graduate in the spring from a school with major cultural issues in terms of student-athlete relations on campus. Athletic director Mike Williams is stepping down in the spring. His successor has a long list of issues to address on their first day on the job. Improving athlete and student relations will be near the top.