Ian Troost – Pittsburgh Football

“I grew up in New Hampshire which is 95% white. There are a lot of affluent people and tons of wealth in the area. With all that money, they may be ignorant to a lot of what still happens in the United States because we live in a perfect little bubble here.”

“I was essentially taught the basics. The Civil War ended in 1865, which was good. The Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves. The Confederates were bad. Don’t use racial slurs, don’t burn a cross, and you’re not racist. Going to Utah, I was still ignorant to all of this. My sophomore year I ended up being the president of all the clubs on campus, and it was then that I started to become more privy to minority groups.” 

“I started to figure things out when I moved in with two Black student-athletes at Pitt, Dontez Ford and Reggie Mitchell. They played on the football team while I was the mascot there. Spending time with them and seeing microaggressions and racism act against them in person was eye-opening. I listened to their experiences of growing up Black and the racist experiences they suffered from.”

“Dontez, Reggie, and I had talked about kneeling the year before when they were on the team. Our life skills program talked to us and said if anyone wanted to protest they should make sure that the reason they wanted to protest was true and valid. I remember thinking, ‘Man, imagine how powerful it would be if I could be an ally and kneel with them.’  I thought I was going to have a few Black teammates join me. In hindsight, they were actually dissuaded from kneeling.”

“Afterwards, I definitely had some teammates stop talking to me. I ended up having Gatorade poured on my shoulder pads, cherry juice poured on my sweat pants one day. I ended up having pretty crazy talks with the AD and the deputy athletic director, who raised their voices at me and implied that I was costing the school money. I think people viewed me more as a dumb kid who wanted attention, whereas they viewed Black athletes doing it as a problem and as animals and ungrateful. And I think there’s privilege in that. That’s why it’s super important that we become allies and use our voices so that we can amplify Black voices and experiences.”

“Know that you can use your voice, but also be introspective and hold your community accountable. It’s okay to separate the good a community has done from the bad and hold the bad side accountable. It’s okay for me to say I’m from New Hampshire and it’s the greatest state in the country, but I know that there’s also a big racist history in New Hampshire, and just because we were a state in the Union and one of the first states and free slaves would come here, that doesn’t mean make us immune from the problem at all.”

“For athletes, just listen to your black teammates and their experiences and believe them. Try to be empathetic and understand that it’s not always about you. This isn’t the Olympics of difficulty. We’re not trying to say that your hard isn’t hard. But we have an overarching issue that Black people and people of color deal with subconsciously every day that is the stress and anxiety that must come with being a Black human being. And that’s not something we can all understand, but for us to recognize that will be a big step in the right direction. Ultimately when we’re truly all equal, that’s when we’re all free. None of us are free if we’re not all free.”

“Finally, be a lifelong learner. I could read every book and there would still be more to learn. Just because I’m having a conversation and you’re highlighting my story doesn’t make me this all-knowing race expert, I’m far from it. I am still learning every day and I still make mistakes everyday, and I think that’s really the first step to being able to hold ourselves and each other accountable. We can recognize something may have been a mistake, but still encourage ourselves to do better together.”

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