By Cam Smith ’21
Below is an all too brief synopsis of just one talking point from Providence College Athletics’ “Race in Sports” panel, a feature in its 2020 Diversity and Inclusion Campaign in partnership with the NCAA. The Cowl encourages you to visit the PC Athletics YouTube channel to view the full event.
PC Athletics’ “Race in Sports” panel gathered five brilliant Friar alumni for a discussion on race, sports, and the ongoing diversity efforts at the College. Moderated by Rudy Cline-Thomas ’00, founder and managing partner of Mastry, Inc., the conversation proved to be both insightful and moving.
Although many topics were covered throughout the discussion, one prevailing theme from the former athletes seemed to be their dual identities as both athletes and students. James Best ’88, former PC men’s basketball player and current Senior Advisor for the American Business Forum Inc., described how the “red-carpet treatment” that basketball players got could sometimes shelter them from a racialized campus climate.
Best spoke to how it was not until he sat out a season with an injury and got more involved with on-campus organizations that he really understood and appreciated the difficulties that Black, non-athlete students faced on campus. Britt King ’86, a former PC women’s basketball star and a member of PC’s Hall of Fame, added that “on the court I had a great experience with my teammates…[but] I had friends who did not play sports, and the struggle was real.”
With this being said, the former athletes certainly still faced issues on campus because of the color of their skin. Megan Onyundo ’19, a former PC women’s volleyball star, spoke to how she constantly compared herself to the small, blonde girls on campus. Onyundo relayed how this really wore on her mental health, and how now “just realizing that and changing my mindset to I can’t be like them so I’m going to do my best based off who I am…that I’m going to be happy and proud of all the work I put in.”
Nick Sailor ’17, former men’s soccer standout and current director of training and education for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at PC, added further insight on this. “Like James [Best] said, you’re kind of in this bubble, yet at the same time you’re not void of those things, you’re still a young Black student on campus,” he stated. “Yes, you’re a student-athlete, yes you get the gear, yes they know who you are, but at the end of the day you’re still racialized and seen in that light. So, having to navigate those two things at one time can be challenging.”