On Friday afternoon at 1 p.m., a unity rally for diversity on UW campus was planned by Wisconsin athletes. Track and field athlete Armoni Brown was one of the leaders, along with former Badgers basketball player Samad Qawi, who set up the march which went from the arch at Camp Randall Stadium to Bascom Hall.
According to NBC 15’s George Balekji, “the march consisted of around 200 athletes, coaches, administrators and regular students to give a voice to the university’s Black students who make up less than 2% of the student body.”
Wisconsin cornerback Faion Hicks spoke to the assembled athletes and had some wise words for everyone present, “We cannot initiate change until people that are not directly affected by what is going on realize what is happening right now.”
One Team. Wisconsin student athletes coming together for each other. It doesn’t get any better than this. Proud of all our Badgers. pic.twitter.com/6HDvJKvfpj— Mick Byrne (@WiscoByrne) September 5, 2020
Back at the beginning of July, fellow defensive back Madison Cone, along with Brown and other athletes, asked the university to put a black W on every athletic uniform for the coming season to “show solidarity and commitment to the inclusion of Black and other underrepresented students that their lives matter.”
In the middle of July, the athletic department and the university released a statement saying that they would add the black W to all the jerseys as “a show of support, inclusion and unity from Badger student-athletes, the UW Athletic Department and UW-Madison as a whole.”
After the athletes marched on Friday, the athletic department released a “diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan.” Here is their statement:
Striving to create an environment that embraces diversity and encourages people from all backgrounds to come together in order to develop, grow and win together, Wisconsin Athletics shared the Badgers’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Strategic Plan on Friday.
“I am very pleased to be able to announce the important work that is being done in our department around Inclusion and Engagement. And I want to thank our staff that has been focused on this work, especially our strategic plan that began to take shape last winter,” said Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin director of athletics.
“We have done a lot of work in this space, but we have more to do and I am committed to see that happen. It’s fitting that, on a day when our student-athletes marched through campus in support of change, we unveiled a strategic plan that begins to address some of those same issues in our department. I want Wisconsin Athletics to be a safe and inclusive place for student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans.”
The strategic plan has three key priorities:
1. Establish framework to help facilitate a diverse and inclusive culture relevant for student-athletes, staff, coaches, administration, campus partners and community stakeholders
2. Provide programming and support for diversity-related efforts within the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics
3. Manage diversity and inclusion risk management
“We recognize that differences in age, race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, physical ability, beliefs and background bring immense value to our department,” said Mike Jackson, Wisconsin’s associate athletic director of development, inclusion and engagement. “Attracting, developing and retaining talent at all levels that reflects the diversity of our global community is essential to our continued success.
For Jackson, this effort is essential to the Badgers’ ongoing legacy of success.
“Excelling in this space requires more than just the policies and practices outlined in our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Strategic Plan,” he added. “We will integrate diversity, equity and inclusion best practices into the DNA of our department and ensure that its link to our measures of success is clear.”
Stand together— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) September 5, 2020
We are One Team pic.twitter.com/kXFkelAuNF
It is nice to see that the athletic department, and university as a whole, taking this seriously. There is always more to be done to truly create a diverse, equal and inclusive campus but hopefully, lead by the athletes at UW, Wisconsin continues to push forward and make good, actionable change.