Truth Talk Thursday: Discrimination in Athletics

At last week’s Truth Talk Thursday, speakers and students were invited to discuss inequality and social problems in athletics. Among these speakers were two of Wittenberg’s student athletes, Ryan Roark, ‘18, and Jonathan Seay, ‘20, who shared their experiences as a gay athlete, and an African-American athlete.

The pressure athletes face as public figures and as part of a team often discourages them from making bold statements. Both expressed the difficulty in voicing their opinions as minorities, especially when that opinion is controversial, like gay rights, racism or sexism.

“We’re not going to hop out of line and be the only one,” Seay said.

Inequality on and off the field was the theme of this month’s Truth Talk Thursday, an event put on by Student Senate to address greater issues on campus and around the world. Last Thursday’s talk involved the role of athletes in social change, as well as the adversity faced by minority group athletes.

Although both said they felt generally accepted here at Wittenberg, Roark and Seay also shared some prior experiences in life as well as in athletics, where they felt like the outsider. Roark spoke about stereotypical masculinity in sports, and how being homosexual has made that transition difficult, especially when expressing his views.

“Why would I be the black swan?” Roark said.

They also covered inequality outside of Wittenberg, including famous athletes who have faced discrimination and adversity in athletics like Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Simone Biles and Adam Rippon.

“If there’s inequality in society, there is inequality in sport,” Jordan Dawson, ‘20, said, regarding the challenges of minority athletes.

Also discussed among inequality was the concept of gender. Kelley Hubbel and Sarah Jurewicz shed some light on the struggles for women in sports. Although progress has been made regarding women’s sports and coed sports, access and opportunity are still limited.

On the collegiate level, Title IX has made waves for female athletes. The NCAA applies Title IX, a federal law passed in the Educational amendments of 1972, to collegiate sports by stating that athletes are not to be discriminated against due to gender and to be offered the same opportunities at an institution.

“This is definitely a talk that needed to happen,” said Wittenberg women’s tennis athlete Carli Milano, ‘19.

Whether at Wittenberg or the Olympics, both students and athletes attendees agree that inequality is a problem that is important to talk about, and perhaps this is where we start making the change.

 

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