Black USC student-athletes create United Black Student-Athletes Association

Black USC student-athletes have created the United Black Student-Athletes Association to foster a community for Black student-athletes, provide a safe space and offer a platform to advocate for action against anti-Blackness at the University and in the Athletic Department.

Senior track and field hurdler and sprinter Anna Cockrell emailed a statement detailing the newly formed group’s calls to action to athletic director Mike Bohn and later posted the statement in a tweet Wednesday morning. 

“Given our unique position and platforms as athletes at a prestigious university, we cannot remain silent on these issues,” the statement read. “We are not student-athletes who happen to be Black, but Black students who happen to be athletes. We are hurting, and we feel compelled to make a statement and urge USC and USC Athletics to take bold, decisive action to combat racial inequality and support Black students.”

The statement outlined 12 specific changes UBSAA wishes to see from the Athletic Department by the beginning of the fall semester. Those demands, which UBSAA says are not exhaustive, are for the Athletic Department to:

— State unequivocally that Black lives matter and prioritize Black lives and well-being over “pandering to boosters and donors.” 

— Promise that student-athletes will not face retaliation or punishment for protesting or speaking out against racial injustice. This means no reduction in playing time or financial aid, no suspensions and no removal from their respective teams.

— Include student-athletes in ongoing dialogue about the coronavirus pandemic and the return to campus, especially because of the pandemic’s disproportionate effects on the Black community. The statement claims that a survey about student-athletes’ well-being has been the sole platform for student-athletes to speak out on the topic. 

— Improve inclusivity and representation on the Trojan Athletic Senate. According to the statement, TAS meetings are poorly communicated and dominated by certain unspecified teams. 

— Work toward diversity among Athletic Department staff and consider Black candidates for open positions, especially in the Sports Psychology and Athletic Medicine departments. The statement said that the pandemic and recent publicly broadcasted killings of Black people create a need for psychological support more than ever before and that Black psychologists who can relate to the Black experience are essential. 

— Create a pipeline to train and facilitate the hiring of Black staff. The statement suggested career development outreach for current Black staff members and a diversity and inclusion fellowship for student-athletes who remain at USC but are out of athletic eligibility. 

— Encourage donations by fans, particularly by maintaining dialogue with UBSAA, Black student-athlete alumni, the Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs and the Black Student Assembly to determine outreach methods. 

— Require in-person anti-racism training for all student-athletes and staff, an extension of the mandatory online training that President Carol Folt announced USC will implement for the community. 

— Follow the NCAA Board of Governors’ Friday recommendation by mandating that no required athletic activities take place on election days. 

— Hold celebrations and special events in recognition of Black History Month. UBSAA suggested the monthlong observance include speakers, panels, presentations and food. 

— Fund at least two student-athletes and an adviser or staff member to attend the Black Student-Athlete Summit each year so student-athletes can “form bonds with students from different schools, discuss culturally relevant topics, and learn best practices in use at other schools and potentially implement them at USC.”

— Create a graduate scholarship for student-athletes who have completed their eligibility and devoted significant work to the improvement of the Black community. In addition, work with the Black Alumni Association and CBCSA to fund scholarships for Black students who are not athletes.  

The statement said the organization was formed to improve the experiences of the Black community both at USC and in the outside community amid ongoing nationwide Black Lives Matter protests. According to the statement, UBSAA has already created a voter registration and information drive, a podcast series and community service events it can host after returning to campus. 

The statement also announced UBSAA’s endorsement of BSA’s call to action made in early June.

USC Athletics has taken to social media in the past weeks to voice support for the Black community and removed a football booster due to racist tweets two weeks ago. The statement acknowledged the efforts made by the University and its athletic department so far but added that there remains work to be done. 

“It is not enough for the athletic department to release public statements and post on social media,” the statement read. “They must support their words with sustained action and commitment to the Black community.”

In response to Cockrell’s tweet containing the statement, Bohn announced the creation of the USC Athletics Black Lives Matter Action Team in a statement on his Twitter.

“The charge of this group will be to lead our program through a process of continued listening, learning, and educating with the ultimate goal of developing a series of meaningful and substantive actions and reforms for implementation,” Bohn’s statement read. “Our intention is not to take the first action, but rather to take the actions that will deliver sustained, long-term impact and progress.” 

Bohn wrote that the USCABLM Action Team will work with student-athletes, including the TAS and UBSAA, to ensure that all voices are heard and that actions taken reflect collaboration and shared goals.

Bohn’s statement also recognized the demands made by UBSAA. He did not yet comment on whether or not UBSAA’s requested actions would be taken.

“I enthusiastically encourage our students to use their platforms to effect change, and we are excited to work together — student-athletes, coaches, and staff — to make [a] real and meaningful impact,” Bohn wrote. “We all share the same commitment to building an inclusive athletics program that provides our student-athletes with a safe and supportive environment.”

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