Illinois State University athletics officials published an action plan Monday in response to demands from student-athletes who have staged a boycott.
It comes in response to Athletics Director Larry Lyons' comment that "All Redbird Lives Matter" in a recent video call with student-athletes, coaches and administrators.
The plan, posted on the athletic department website, said ISU athletics is “committed to responding to the list of demands offered by Redbird student-athletes. Additionally, the athletic department reaffirms that without hesitation that BLACK LIVES MATTER.”
The action plan calls for a number of reforms, including: forming a student-athlete action team for social change; hosting a student-athlete listening forum with Doris Houston, interim assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion; implementing an educational program entitled, "Race and Cultural Diversity in American Life and History"; and developing a LGBTQ+ support group.
Kimathhi Johnson, a senior track athlete at ISU, said the “All Redbird Lives Matter” remark made him angry, especially since the athletics department hasn't offered enough support for Black athletes--even after the recent string of shootings against people of color.
“In a lot of ways, I do feel used and betrayed because of how much time we do spend trying to represent our community well,” Johnson said.
As athletes, We demand change, we demand safety, and we demand a commitment to ensuring black lives matter at ISU.
There are still many more voices to be heard from our fellow athletes, however we must know the administration is committed to change first. pic.twitter.com/P2UiQHZ0yV
— Kimathi Johnson (@KimathioJohnson) August 30, 2020
Johnson said what made the comment especially hurtful is that the athletics department was silent after George Floyd’s killing and other shootings against Blacks that have dominated the headlines in recent months.
“To claim that all Redbird lives matter in his statement maybe would not have blown up so much if the administration had represented Black Lives Matter in the past,” he said, adding Lyons' apology seemed insincere and he needs to see changes.
“We do not forgive Larry and the administration,” Johnson declared. “The apology was not accepted yet. I think from a lot of people it will not be accepted, but if they do want us to move forward and they do want things to ever be back to normal, they need to commit to change."
The student-athletes said in a list of demands several of them posted on social media, they want a commitment to diversity in administration and in mental health, and for all coaches, staff and athletes to get diversity training.
I’m angered and sickened by that comment. That is not what your coaches believe. BLACK LIVES MATTER.
— Mary Wood (@MaryKWood11) August 27, 2020
Other ISU athletes and coaches took to social media to express their outrage over the remark.
Track and field Associate Head Coach Mary Wood said she was “angered and sickened” by it. Senior track athlete Mya Robinson responded by adding Lyons “meant what he said.”
Johnson said student-athletes from across all ISU sports programs have shown support for the boycott, and while he’s not sure how long they are prepared for a prolonged boycott, he is optimistic the student-athletes' demands will bring about the changes they want and need to see.