On Monday, University of Wisconsin student-athletes took to twitter in a campaign to raise awareness of the problems inherent in a system that they say lauds the athlete and dismisses the student. According to ESPN, a score of UW football players as well as celebrated basketball player Nigel Hayes have shared a statement that earnestly asks for respect and understanding. The athletes are calling on university officials to take a stand, address head-on the issues that student-athletes of color face daily on college campuses around the United States and take the initiative to effect real change.
“Many people believe that student-athletes of color are immune to the racial injustices that affect other students of color on campus,” the statement begins. “However, our experiences are not shielded by the W we wear on our chest. Our experiences are one and the same. We are loved during competition, but then subjected to racial discrimination in our everyday lives.”
The statement goes on to say that “these issues are in no way localized to the UW. This is a national issue, and many universities across the nation need to start addressing how students of color are treated.”
Earlier this fall, the University of Wisconsin made an effort to address the racial climate on campus with the creation of a new position, director of diversity and inclusion. While there was some skepticism at the time regarding the need for such a position, incidents such as the insensitive Obama-in-noose costume worn to the UW home game on October 29 highlight the racial aggressions that students of color face on campus that some choose to dismiss as “all in good fun.”
In her October interview to Athletic Business, new director of diversity and inclusion Jennifer Hunter expressed similar concerns to the statement shared by student-athletes about the discrepancy in the nature of treatment that student-athletes receive on and off the field. “There's the assumption that they're just here for sport, when they are people who see their lives beyond the game,” she said. “Or our football players will walk down the street at night, and people cross the street. On Saturday you're a god, and then Sunday night you're a goon.”
University of Wisconsin officials have made one small offering in the wake of the recent call to action. Athletic Director Barry Alvarez told ABC News that Camp Randall Stadium will have new policies in place regarding acceptable fan behavior before the stands open for the next game November 12. “Our department is committed to working collaboratively to make our stadium a great and safe place for fans to watch a football game,” he said.