Five Things Your Black Teammates Want You to Know

As we’ve shared athlete’s stories, we’ve had the privilege to catch a glimpse into the lives of so many amazing individuals. We’ve rejoiced with them in their successes, and mourned with them in their hardships. For many athletes however, especially those of color, much of their journey is not always easily seen. They carry a truth that can be both burdensome and empowering. By listening to these athlete’s stories, we can become better teammates, allies, and people. With that in mind, we are pleased to share five powerful lessons we’ve learned about the experiences of Black athletes in sports, from the mouths of those who have lived them. Here are five things your Black teammates want you to know:

  1. “Black” is not my personality

“Over my years playing, people have told me that I am ‘The whitest Black person they have ever met’ or that ‘I am not black enough.’ To me, that’s garbage. Being black is not a personality, and playing a predominantly white sport does not make you less of a black person by any means. I think that’s something that younger black kids who want to play lacrosse, or any other predominantly white sport should know.” -Hank Bethel, Bucknell Lacrosse

2. Representation Matters

“One of the single biggest things that helped me gain confidence in my role as an athlete was seeing Black women excel in sports, regardless of the level.” – Chinaza Ndee, Pitt Volleyball

3. Be Aware of Microagressions

“As a Black [athlete], microaggressions can be hard to deal with because people do sometimes truly think that they’re complimenting you by saying things like ‘You’re so articulate.’ What gets me with a comment like that is the assumption that being articulate isn’t the standard or the expectation for someone who looks like me. They aren’t complimenting me for anything I actually said, but are just impressed that I said it well.” -Thomas Booker, Stanford Football

4. We’re Exhausted

“As a Black man I had to learn how to move carefully and be smart in order to be successful. There is already a target on our backs and any little thing could magnify simply because of the color of our skin. Learning to live the right way is key.” – Ryle Owens, Young Harris Basketball

5. We’re All On The Same Team

 “I would like every athlete – no matter their race – to feel comfortable on their team, in their athletic facility, at their job, as well as in the world. Nobody should be treated differently because of the color of their skin.” -Nya Reed, Florida Gymnastics

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