Collective Uplift and Sport Management Program hosted successful Race, Sport, and Activism Panel as covered by The Daily Campus.
Written by: Dr. Joseph Cooper
On September 1, 2016, before the NFL regular season game between the San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers, Colin Kaepernick captured the nation’s attention by kneeling during the playing the of the national anthem as an act of protest against police brutality and social injustices in the United States (U.S.). Although, Kaepernick had chosen not to stand during the NFL pre-season games of the 2016-2017 season, the visibility of the nationally televised Thursday night game generated a broader national conversation on activism and sport. Since Kaepernick’s initial kneel, there ongoing debates and discussions about protests, patriotism, police brutality, politics, and power relations in the U.S. society. These conversations have occurred everywhere from mainstream news shows, internet blogs, coffee shops, late night comedy shows, sports shows, schools, barbershops and beauty salons, political speeches, town halls, and community spaces.
On October 18, 2017, the UConn campus community extended this dialogue by engaging in a formal conversation on the topic of “Race, Sport, and Activism.” This event was co-sponsored by the Collective Uplift student organization, UConn Athletics Department, and UConn Sport Management Program. The aim of the event was to facilitate a healthy discussion on how race, sport, and activism have been historically and contemporarily intertwined and contributed to positive social progress. Dr. Joseph Cooper, Assistant Professor in Sport Management, was the lead organizer and moderator for the event. According to Cooper, the event provided
“A much needed concerted space for the campus to focus on the ways in which sport and athletes use their respective platforms to communicate messages about broader social issues and ignite positive change in society.”
The panel began with an evocative video of a spoken word artist named Tariq Touré who delivered a powerful poem titled “For the Love the Game.” The poem provided illustrative descriptions of contested sporting spaces that reinforce damaging power relationships between White male economic elites (i.e., NFL owners) and Black male laborers (i.e., a majority of NFL players) , reflect persisting racial inequalities, and fosters an apolitical culture that suppresses Blacks’ engagement in political and social justice engagement. Following the video, Cooper highlighted the historical legacy of activism efforts through sport for race-related social justice causes. Within this description, different types of activism were presented including symbolic, scholarly/educational, grassroots, sport-based, economic, political, legal, media, and music and art. Each of the aforementioned types of activism have been utilized by Black athletes and institutions redress injustices in society. In addition, the historical overview connected sport activism dating back to the late 1800s to the most recent acts of activism in the 21st century.
Following the historical overview, three videos of Colin Kaepernick’s initial post-game explanation of why he chose to take a knee, President Trump’s recent comments about how he feels NFL owners should respond to players who choose not to stand for the anthem, and President Obama’s response to a military service member who inquired about his feelings about the NFL anthem protests were presented. After the videos, the six panelists were introduced. The six panelists included
- Deshon Foxx – current graduate student in the UConn Sport Management program, UConn alumnus (’14 in Sociology), former UConn football player (2010-2014)), and former NFL player (2014-2017)
- Angelo Pruitt – current Financial Advisor for Merrill Edge, UConn alumnus (’15 in Economics), and former UConn football player (2010-2015)
- Tyrae Sims – current undergraduate student in the UConn Sport Management program and former UConn football player (2013-2016)
- Kelli Thomas – current undergraduate student in Human Development and Family Studies and current track and field athlete (2013-present)
- Folorunso Fatukasi – UConn alumnus (’17 in Sociology) and current UConn football player (2013-present)
- Aaron Garland – current undergraduate student in Political Science and current UConn football player (2015-2017)
The panelists were asked questions regarding their perspectives on the videos of Kaepernick, President Trump, and President Obama as well as their thoughts on athletes engaging in activism and specific recommendations that felt would contribute to positive change in society.
Pruitt emphasized how his heightened social consciousness during the latter stages of and following his athletic career influenced his perceptions of activism through sport. He said
“Your sport is what you play. It is not who you are.”
In his opinion, although he did not engage in activism during his playing career, if he could go back knowing what he knows now he would encourage more activism among current athletes. Foxx reflected on his NFL career when he was a member of the Seattle Seahawks immediately following Kaepernick’s activism. He described how he and his teammates agreed locking arms as a team would send a powerful message about unity while expressing support for Kaepernick. He also highlighted the real fear that comes with a lack of job security as a professional athlete when considering to engage in activism. However, he explained how his increased social consciousness throughout his playing career has motivated him to encourage athletes using their platform to foster positive change in society.
Sims expressed the need for athletes challenge power systems that suppress their authentic identities. He explained how athletes are not disconnected from social injustices occurring in the broader society and being educated on these issues is an important first step. Specifically, he referenced how in his hometown community, police brutality and other offenses were not uncommon and thus athletes like himself who are closely connected to these issues feel more compelled to speak out and do anything they can to address these issues. Thomas provided an important lens as a Black woman athlete and described how often times she feels she does not have the same influence as her same race male counterparts in more high profile sports (football and basketball). She explained the importance of athletes using a range of platforms to challenge social injustice outside of sport.
Fatukasi offered an insightful perspective on being a current college athlete and the legitimate fears associated with engaging in activism. Similar to Foxx, Fatukasi has NFL aspirations and said engaging in activism as a current player could hinder his chances of achieving his professional goals. He also emphasized the importance of athletes’ developing themselves holistically and accessing support systems to assist them with balancing difficult decisions about how to promote social change while minimizing the adverse impact on their sport aspirations. Garland expressed the power of collective efforts when seeking to address social injustices. He described how pursuing these efforts alone can be challenging and gaining the support and involvement of an entire team or a group of people is a way to achieve more impactful change. The panel concluded with Q&A from the audience.
The event was well-attended with over 60 attendees and media coverage from CTN and university based media outlets. Cooper said he hopes this is event serves as
“One more step forward within a larger legacy of social justice efforts to create more reflection, education, empowerment, and action that leads to positive changes in our society.”
For those who attended this event and heard from the panelists, it is clear this message resonated loud and clear.
Assistant Professor of Sport Management, Dr. Joseph Cooper, weighs in on the recent #TakeAKnee protests in opinion piece for the Neag School of Education Website. Read here.
The Daily Campus (Sport Management’s Joseph Cooper and fellow Neag colleague, Glenn Mitoma helped organize the event)
Thursday, August 24, 2017 | 6:00 pm-8:00 pm
100 Trumbull Street
Hartford, CT 06103
For more details, visit the registration page
While Title IX celebrated its 45th anniversary last week, members of the UConn Sport Management program publicly acknowledged what its passing, almost five decades ago, has allowed them to accomplish in their personal careers in sport.
Students, alumni, professors, colleagues, teammates, coaches and mentors all joined in on the campaign to honor this milestone, sharing how Title IX has provided them with opportunities to achieve success, and will continue to do so in the future. Check out some of their responses to the prompted statement, "BecauseOfTitleIX..."
"I'm able to travel the country representing my school & able to pursue a career in the sport industry!”
"I've hydrated some of the best athletes, mentored, coached & am inspired daily by incredible women."
"I have a spot on the field, a seat at the table, and the opportunity to make an impact"
"I'm the first college grad in my family & continue to share my passion for sports w/ student-athletes daily"
“I built relationships that'll last a lifetime, learned valuable lessons & can have a career in athletics!”
"I have seen female athletes achieve success at the highest level."
"I get to promote women in a sport that I have been playing since I was four years old."
“I've the opportunity to play the sport I love, surrounded by incredible women whose talents are limitless”
"I've had the opportunity to be not only a student-athlete but a college coach, & now Dir of Athletic Development!"
“I was able to pole vault in the State of Connecticut as an official track and field event, not an exhibition event, my senior year in high school. Which set me up to earn the CT state women’s record and later the University of Connecticut’s school record. It helped me earn a track scholarship, bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in sport management.”
"I found my passion and have been able to travel and meet to many inspirational people"
"I am able to fulfill my lifelong dream of playing Division I athletics, as an ice hockey player."
“I played the sport I love at a D1 level, have opportunities to learn & lead along side some of the strongest women I know.”
"I was seen as equal within my role as graduate head manager for an elite Division 1 Men's Team”
"I have the ability to travel to various sporting events and pursue a career that I love!”
"My professional/athletics careers are possible. I wouldn't be where I am if not for the women who came before me"
"I can dream."
"I was able to travel to Dallas to cover the Women's Final Four, and have pursued a career in athletics"
"I played. I coached. I studied. And now I teach, I learn and I lead."
"I get to work with Rhett at Fenway Park!!"
"I'm able to pursue a career in the sport industry & use it as a platform to advocate for female athletes"
“I’m a 7x All-American w/2 Master's, a career in athletics, making a difference in the lives of student-athletes”
"I was able to be a Division I Softball Student-Athlete!"
“Opportunities are endless and the best relationships are made.”
"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Dr. Laura Burton co-authors new book on Women in Sport Leadership which highlights that “although women and girls participate in sport in greater numbers than ever before, research shows there has been no significant increase in women leading sport organizations. This book takes an international, evidence-based perspective in examining women in sport leadership and offers future directions for improving gender equity. With contributions from leading international sport scholars and practitioners, it explores the opportunities and challenges women face while exercising leadership in sport organizations and evaluates leadership development practices.”
Pictured here are the contributing authors (L-R): Nef Walker, University of Massachusetts; Sarah Leberman, Massey University; Meg Hancock, University of Louisville; Laura Burton, UConn Neag School of Education; Heidi Grappendorf, University of Cincinnati; Janelle Wells, University of South Florida; and Nicole Melton, University of Massachusetts.
Tuesday, June 27, 2017 | 5:30 pm-7:30 pm
167 E 33rd Street
New York, NY 10016
For more details, visit the registration page
Sport Management alumnus Mikio Yoshimura, who currently works as the Asian Business Development Specialist for the Boston Red Sox, served as the guest speaker at a Brown Bag Luncheon in Boston on Tuesday, June 13.
The event, put on by the Japan Society of Boston, was titled “Japan and the Red Sox: A View from Inside.” During the luncheon, Yoshimura shared experiences about all the work that the Red Sox organization and Fenway Park have done with Japan.
UConn Sport Management congratulates Yoshimura for this accomplishment and looks forward to seeing all that he will achieve in the future with this organization.
The University of Connecticut Sport Management program held its first annual Send-Off event on April 26 to congratulate and celebrate the students who would graduate from the university this spring.
Both undergraduate and graduate students attended the inaugural event, as did many of the programs’ faculty and alumni. The soon-to-be graduates were given the opportunity to network with past Sport Management students and discuss their future plans and aspirations with the professors who watched them grow during their time in the program.
Aaron Ryley represented the undergraduate graduating class at the event, giving a brief speech about the impact that his professors and fellow classmates had on his time at UConn. Sofia Read, the graduate class speaker, discussed how she knew that UConn was the right place for her from the first moment she arrived on campus.
The Sport Management graduate students received their Master’s Degrees on Saturday, May 6 in Gampel Pavilion, while the undergraduate students received their Bachelors of Science on Sunday, May 7 in the Jorgensen Center for Performing Arts.