by, Kyla Guilfoil, Staff Writer
This summer the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference announced its MAAC United for Justice Campaign. This campaign was created in response to protests and petitions across our country calling for social justice and the dismantling of systemic racism in America. The MAAC, along with the conference’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee — better known as the SAAC — will be at the forefront of spreading these initiatives.
The MAAC is hoping to keep conversations about racial inequity going with a collection of events that will be led by the men’s and women’s basketball teams.
The women’s basketball head coaches across the MAAC will develop a special “Education Day” in February aimed to teach local kids in their communities about the importance of Black History Month. There is also a planned reading program specified to benefit elementary and middle schools that will include the participation of MAAC basketball coaches.
The first engagement has already begun this fall, focusing on voter registration for student athletes. As part of the effort, all student-athletes will have a mandatory day off from training on Election Day, Nov. 3, to ensure they will have the ability to exercise their right to vote. The MAAC is also encouraging teams to develop Martin Luther King Jr. Day programming this January as a way to come together to honor King’s legacy of social change and justice.
There has been resounding support for these efforts from at least one team at the school.
The MC women’s basketball team has used its official Instagram account, @manhattanwbb, to promote awareness of social justice issues with a number of posts. On July 9, the account posted a video showing many of the team members standing with the Black Lives Matter movement and speaking out against racism and police brutality.
According to senior Courtney Warley of the women’s basketball team, the team’s senior class is designing shooting shirts and shorts to show their support for the campaign while on the court. The team will wear these in the upcoming season, as well as showcase Black Lives Matter patches on their jerseys. Additionally, her coaches plan to wear pins in support of the movement.
These uniform additions come after numerous team discussions on social justice issues. Warley believes this campaign and the movement happening across the country prompted real conversations about the problem of systemic racism and social injustice.
“I think just talking about it, our team is very diverse and when this was kind of at the height of it and during quarantine, one of the conversations that we had is, like I’ve been here for almost four years, we’ve never had this conversation before, and yes we all respect each other,” Warley said. “We all accept each other, but there’s a lot of different issues that a lot of people on the team deal with that we never really talked about. And we are a very close team and we are close to our coaches, and we always knew that it was kind of there, but we just made it a point that we’re gonna have these conversations more, we’re gonna bring up more what’s bothering us.”
The MAAC is also committed to implementing inclusivity and diversity programming to further educate administrators, coaches and student-athletes on these matters.
The conference is working to have a delegate from each member school on the Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee to give a voice to student athletes on these important societal subjects. This will allow students to have a direct line of communication with conference administration about concerns, ideas or hopes regarding social issues.
“We know this is a long and winding road, and we are fortunate to have such an amazing group of people who are committed to becoming the change we seek for our society,” Rev. J. James Maher, the MAAC President said, according to the MAAC’s website.
Warley is on the Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee for the MAAC. She highlighted the importance of adding a position of diversity and inclusion on the SAAC.
“There will always be a position more aware of social issues because I think that’s a big thing,” Warley said.
Nashally Eleutiza, a senior on the volleyball team, echoed the importance of education on these topics.
“Some of us weren’t educated on the situation, and some of us were,” Eleutiza said regarding her teammates’ backgrounds. “Because some of us experienced what is going on, so we helped each other out, we sent each other books, we sent each other articles about just different situations about the topic and it honestly brought us really closer together.”
Eleutiza is not herself a member of the African American community, but sees no reason why that should deter anyone from being engaged and educated in this movement.
“I personally feel that we are all one, so we all should know when someone goes through something, and it’s just so important because you never want to judge someone on what they’re experiencing in life, you should just be open to what they’re actually experiencing, rather than judging them, of their background and what they have experienced in life,” Eleutiza said. “Instead of judging, just be open minded with it, and it’s just very important.”
According to the MAAC website, during this year’s basketball season, floor decals and digital board content focusing on the Black Lives Matter movement and the MAAC United for Justice Campaign will be provided to all schools in the conference by the MAAC.
“Change comes from a movement that involves an entire collective group working towards common goals and desires, not a single moment in time,” Rich Ensor, the MAAC commissioner said, according to the MAAC’s website. “A groundwork for change has been established in the MAAC, it is up to all of us involved to ensure systemic racism, violence, and oppression are brought to the forefront of minds in our communities and that awareness is raised to bring the change we want to see in our society.”
Warley reitereated this call for unity, remarking how a whole team isn’t likely to share the same views, but it is nonetheless important to respect each other’s views during this time. Both Warley and Eleutiza said they think this movement has demonstrated that sports go beyond athleticism. According to these two athletes, team unity and bonds need to go beyond the court. Warley also talked about how this campaign has led to her team realizing how powerful their platform as athletes is.
“Even if one person believes it, you’re stronger when there are 15 girls behind you, when you have the platform that we can use as a team behind us,” Warley said. “So I think that was the biggest jump that we made this year, instead of just a couple individual people speaking out about it, we wanted to all stand together and stand united and have a united voice in it.”
The efforts of MC’s teams and players to bring awareness to our campus, and by the MAAC to spread it across all 11 campuses, is a hopeful step forward for securing social justice for our communities. As the year progresses, these programs will demonstrate the MAAC’s commitment to fighting injustices in our communities, campuses and on the courts and fields.