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ISU Student-Athletes Step Into Racial Justice Conversation

Kendee Hilliard
Kendee Hilliard is the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee vice president and a Redbird volleyball player.

Hundreds of Illinois State University student-athletes huddled this week to discuss the biggest issues of our day—race, justice, and what they stand for.

More than 250 student-athletes joined a Zoom forum Monday night, organized by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). It was in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests.

They talked about a lot—from microaggressions students of color have felt on ISU’s campus, to what they think about kneeling during the National Anthem.

“Being uncomfortable is how you grow. That’s the approach we took,” said Kendee Hilliard, SAAC vice president and a Redbird volleyball player.

SAAC wanted to provide a space to discuss issues that crossed among sports, gender, and race.

Andrea Coursey i
Credit GoRedbirds.com
Andrea Coursey is the SAAC president and now a second-year softball team captain.

“This forum was for our Black student-athletes, including myself, to have a voice and be open to this discussion with their teammates,” Hilliard said.

College-student athletes across the U.S. have been out front on Black Lives Matter issues in recent weeks, including making demands of their own. Many student-athletes already are accustomed to the spotlight and being the most visible members of the student body.

“We have a platform now. It’s bigger than ourselves, and our teams too,” said Andrea Coursey, SAAC president and a second-year softball team captain.

It’s unclear how ISU student-athletes will represent their beliefs on and off the field or court this fall or in spring 2021, should Athletics play resume during the pandemic.

“There are many ways to show your support, even if it’s something small. If anyone at any level feels comfortable showing their support in some way, that’s a step forward. It won’t look the same for everyone. It won’t be an Athletic Department-wide thing, where there’s just one thing you can do. It’s going to be vary by sport,” Coursey said.

“I can’t say who’s gonna do what. But we will and we should see some representation of support, whether it’s kneeling (or something else),” she said.

Hilliard said student-athletes should feel comfortable and safe taking a stance.

“This is only the beginning,” she said. “We have several steps planned to make sure our student-athletes’ voices are heard. Just be on the lookout for change, because that’s what’s going to happen.”

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