A Template Letter To Demand Change for Black Student-Athletes

The following content was originally crafted as an email by Camille Parker, a black student-athlete at California State University Monterey Bay. Parker is a rising senior on the women’s basketball team at CSUMB and worked on this document with other black student-athletes and alumni from the women’s track and women’s basketball teams. Other contributors include Yolanda Ealy, Siana Fields, Nia Howard, Jade Murray and Alexa Sparling.

Their original email has been redacted slightly in hopes that that ALL student-athletes, both black athletes and allies, can use this directly as a copy-and-paste template to send to their own athletic administrators. Parker told our editors, “These words were meant to capture the grievances that [us] athletes experienced. Rather than stand for [the athletic administration’s] ‘We support you’ we want action.”

Parker ’21 (center back) and CSUMB women’s basketball 
Photo Credit: Christina Ferrante, CSUMB athletics

Dear [INSERT SCHOOL NAME HERE] Athletic Administration & Faculty,

         With the recent acts of violence against innocent black people, many school athletic departments have been silent. This has angered and frustrated me and black student-athletes. To spearhead a future of open dialogue and unquestioned support from leadership, I have listed some tangible ideas and actions that should be put into place. I am not naive to the fact that some of these requests will take time, but people have encouraged this change and have deemed it necessary, so I implore you to make these changes happen.

  • Counseling
    • These events are very traumatic for black students. The implications of having to protest for the right to exist are tolling on young lives. Proper counseling, through either the on-campus counseling center or a dedicated person to deal with social trauma, is necessary for athletes to properly handle their emotions. It needs to be understood that black students are constantly being traumatized and that their anger is deep-rooted. Mental health in the black community already has a stigma. A contribution could be made by advertising and establishing a free counseling resource specific to helping students navigate this social trauma. 
  • Education
    • Education needs to begin, especially in communities where the athletic faculty is not predominantly black. This starts from the top down. Everyone has access to the internet and sources are easy to find. Black student-athletes are not here to educate others. Instead, it is your responsibility to have some initiative and search for it yourself to better understand how you can help. Partnerships with campus diversity clubs can help continue the conversation past this moment. 
    • Similar to Title IX training, student-athletes should be required to go through some form of diversity and sensitivity training. This is not a political issue but a human rights issue, and student-athletes that find this training tedious or offensive should have their character questioned. The #blacklivesmatter movement should not be censored by athletic departments. The actual message of the movement has been radicalized by both political parties and become taboo. The message that the training should be built around is that:

Black lives matter and should not be treated as disposable. Americans should all have an equal opportunity to everything as per our democracy, and it is acknowledged that the systems in place prevent the advancement of black people and other people of color.

  • Recruitment
    • For recruitment, athletes are chosen based on their skills and talent and not on their color. But, we can still call for better character vetting to take place. As a current athlete, I would feel more secure knowing that incoming teammates are united behind the pre-established support of black students and their human rights. There needs to be a standard set similar to other requirements for prospective student-athletes. Hard conversations will need to be had to ensure this. I call on all coaches to meet this challenge. 
  • Representation & Leadership
    • Finally, our leadership demographically within athletics does not reflect the diversity of our campus. Additionally, some coaches have not supported or reached out to black student-athletes. We need more representation of coaches of color. Hiring diverse coaches will only enhance the athletic experience for athletes. 

I want it to be understood this is not an attack whiteness, but rather a spotlight on the abundance of it. We are in this situation because many were frozen and unsure of how to proceed. Here are answers, these are tangibles.

Sincerely, 

[YOUR NAME HERE]

[YOUR SCHOOL, SPORT, CLASS YEAR HERE]