By Declan Fee,
Following the lead of professional athletes nationwide, Davis athletes and coaches are speaking out against racial injustice in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and several other African Americans.
Between kneeling for the national anthem, attending Black Lives Matter protests and voicing their concerns during news conferences, professional athletes have taken action to help educate, inform and activate others. Members of the Davis sports community are following in their footsteps.
Local sports teams and the UC Davis athletics department have been using their platforms to educate the community about racism and injustice in our town, and in our country.
Ryan Qualls, a former basketball player and member of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee at UC Davis, offers his support for the professional athletes, and feels that all athletes have the responsibility to speak up. “Everyone has the responsibility to use their voice when they see something wrong,” Qualls said.
UC Davis has taken cues from the National Basketball Association, as they have considered adopting slogans like “Vote,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Power to the people” and “Justice Now” on the back of their jerseys.
Dwight Smith, a colleague of Qualls, also feels strongly about athletes speaking out against what they believe is wrong.
He explains that once athletes leave the field, they are just people. They encounter a lot of the same negative things that the rest of the community faces, and being athletes, they have a platform to try to change the things they see.
“This idea of ‘more than an athlete’ couldn’t be more true,” Smith said.
Davis High paraeducator and football coach Tyjorzi Brown is very unsettled by how he has seen people of color treated in Davis. “My son was in preschool when someone first chose to identify him as the n-word,” Brown said.
Such experiences have made Brown an advocate for people of color in Davis, and he feels that football is one of the ways that people can be brought together. “You have to depend on people that don’t look like you in football,” Brown said. “At the end of the day, when we lace up the cleats and step on the grass, we represent Davis High.”
DHS sophomore Baron Rosario agrees with the actions that the athletes have been taking, but feels that all athletes participating takes some value away from the message. It may start to seem mandatory, and not like a personal belief. “If everyone is [speaking up], it may devalue it [the message],” Rosario said.
UC Davis Athletic Director Kevin Blue believes that professional athletes can make a big impact on what others think. “I believe that athletes expressing themselves will inspire athletes at all levels to express themselves,” Blue said.
A local soccer club, Football Club Davis, has also been advocating for racial and gender equality in their community. “FC Davis was created as soccer for social good,” said Adam Lewin, owner and general manager of the club.
Lewin is disappointed by the fact that this movement has become political. “Being treated the same way as the person next to you is not political,” Lewin said.