Director Alvarez and Wisconsin Athletic Board:
The recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have left us heartbroken and angry. As current and former student-athletes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we are raising our collective voice on the racial issues afflicting our country. The systemic racism that plagues Black and Brown Americans is utterly unacceptable, least of which is the disproportional impact of police violence on people of color. As long as white people and organizations continue to benefit from, and turn a blind eye to, our current unjust systems, institutions like UW Athletics will be complicit in the issues troubling our local communities. And we know, as leaders in our state, and in our great nation, that we, Wisconsin, are better than that.
As Wisconsin student-athletes, we have seen first-hand how sports can connect and unite people with different ideologies, identities, and skin colors. But we’ve also seen where many of us, whether athletes or staff, continue to fail Black, Indigenous, student-athletes of color. While our Black teammates deal day-in and day-out with racism and anti-Black sentiment, like the display of a noose at a UW football game, others of us have never been forced to confront our whiteness and the privilege it affords us.
While we commend the recent statements made by the athletic department and other coaching staffs condemning racism and acknowledging the pain that Black communities across the country are experiencing, we urge you to go a step further. As Wisconsin student-athletes, we believe that Wisconsin Athletics needs to actively work to dismantle racism within our athletic community and greater nation. This must start within ourselves and our own actions, but cannot stop there. Listening to the Black community is imperative, yet it is now on the larger Wisconsin Athletics community to actively address the specific concerns raised and meaningfully work towards the profound change that is desperately needed.
We know that MSAU, SAAC, and SAESO will be working with UW Athletics to implement lasting change within the current student-athlete body; however, we implore you to take additional actions as an administration and coaching staff to:
- Further educate yourselves on America's deep history with anti-Black injustice by:
- Reading: A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi, So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- Watching: 13th by Ava DuVernay (netflix), When They See Us by Ava DuVernay (netflix)
- Confront white privilege and fragility by:
- Reading: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, and Other Essays by Peggy McIntosh
- Hiring a consultant such as Jen Fry (https://jenfrytalks.com/ to lead and facilitate antiracism workshops for student-athletes and staff
- Partner with and learn from University resources like the multicultural student center in the Red Gym and professors in the African American Studies department.
- Look at how many staff of color exist in the entire staff directory, especially at the senior admin level, and review hiring practices to take corrective actions.
- Publicly release a diversity and inclusion report each year outlining the specific actions UW Athletics has taken to:
- Increase representation
- Support student athletes and staff of color
- Engage fans of color
- Reflect critically on UW Athletic’s relationship with UWPD and how their presence impacts the experience of Black student-athletes, fans, and staff of color at athletic contests.
- Donate to local organizations like, Nehemiah (https://nehemiah.org/ Urban Triage (email@example.com), and Freedom Inc. (firstname.lastname@example.org).
While these actions are not exhaustive or all-inclusive, they are a powerful start.
As white and non-Black student-athletes, staff, and coaches, we must rally around our Black student-athletes and staff to educate ourselves. We will no longer let the duty of providing an inclusive and safe environment for all fall squarely, and solely on the shoulders of our Black student-athletes and staff. We are better teammates than that, if our time at Wisconsin taught us anything, it's that we have a duty to step up and lean into challenges, not shy away from them. Change is not easy but it is important, and it starts with us.
Thank you for taking the time to hear our words. We look forward to discussing further and seeing how you incorporate these initiatives, books, and programs within Wisconsin Athletics.
One team. One family. Forever forward.
Hanna Barton, Banke Oginni, and Student-Athletes Past, Present, and Future