Athletic department forms Diversity Committee to facilitate conversations around race, put BLM logo on jerseys, other goals

Eckerd athletics department has organized an Athletic Diversity Action Committee in response to recent racial injustice. The committee meets every other week and its main goal is to establish, through action, Eckerd as a place where racism is not tolerated.

On Aug. 14, the Athletic Diversity Action Committee (ADAC) was introduced in an athletic department town hall. The committee’s main focus is to establish, through action, Eckerd Athletics as a place where racism is not tolerated.  

The committee discussed kneeling for the national anthem, what kneeling means to them as an athletic department at Eckerd and how they can educate student-athletes on what kneeling means. The group plans to put a BLM logo on athletic jerseys/warm-ups for the upcoming seasons. They will discuss current events such as the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin and the protests that have followed in the NBA and WNBA. 

They have also discussed getting involved with voter registration as a department. According to Senior Woman Administrator Michelle Piantadosi-Lima, the ADAC’s biggest goal in regards to voting is promoting voter education. The social media committee will release video content to remind the Eckerd community to register and partake in their civic duty on Sept. 22, National Voter Registration Day, and have resources on their webpage. 

“We really want to make changes that matter rather than, ‘Let's do this education on microaggressions,’” Head Volleyball/Beach Volleyball Coach Piantadosi-Lima, head volleyball/beach volleyball coach, said. “That’s okay, we can do that, but does that make our students of color feel safer? Feel more included?”

According to the ADAC website, the committee includes 14 student-athletes, six staff and faculty members and two alumni. Since the town hall, they have met three times and will continue to meet every other week. According to senior women’s soccer player and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee President Sophia Kopko, the first two meetings were used to discuss the committee’s broad goals as well as creating the three subcommittees to break up responsibilities. 

The three subcommittees include a branch responsible for communication, social media and emails, another branch responsible for education and lastly a branch responsible for events and networking specifically for students of color.

According to Kopko, because of the phased move-in process implemented by Eckerd their goals won’t start to take action until spring when everyone is back on campus. Despite this obstacle, the committee still intends to put out social media content during the fall. 

“Networking events are tough because of the corona [virus] restrictions, so they might not take place in person until next year,” Kopko said. 

In their last meeting, sophomore ADAC members Victoria Grant, Jennifer Clifton, Lauren Margolis and Director of Athletic Communications, Amanda Green presented a variety of logo options they designed to the rest of the committee. They took a vote that decided, almost unanimously according to Harthorne, they will be creating these BLM warm-up jerseys. 

According to Green, the committee is still waiting to show the design to a few people on campus before releasing the design.

The committee has a broad agenda on their site with a list of all the ways they plan on carrying this out. The agenda includes goals such as providing mental health and counseling support services for black student-athletes, expanding implicit bias and microaggression training to all coaches, staff, and student-athletes and participating in civic engagement programming in partnership with campus organizations.

The Creation of ADAC

According to Assistant Athletic Director for Student Development and Well-Being Michelle Piantadosi-Lima, the Athletic Department felt that this was the best way to address concerns or issues that they can assess and make better. 

“Instead of us just making those assessments, we wanted to get the voice of the athletes. So we brought this up; this idea, this vision, and we had so many people that were excited, supportive and very interested in the idea,” Piantadosi-Lima said. 

Two things fall under Piantadosi-Lima’s title that influenced her to help start this committee: diversity and inclusion, and Title IX liaison for athletics.

“I knew we had to do something. The one thing that kept hitting me was action, action action,” Piantadosi-Lima said. 

She began to brainstorm, attend webinars and research. She was inspired by California State University, Monterey Bay, who started a similar committee. During this time she also kept in close contact with Eckerd’s Coordinator for Diversity & Inclusion Programs, Morgan Harthorne. 

According to Harthorne, racism is oftentimes considered a taboo subject that society is not taught to speak up about or address.

“I think the first thing that we can do, both in the community in general, is to start talking about it, leading into these conversations that are uncomfortable and at the same time very, very necessary to have,” Harthorne said. 

As the school year progresses The ADAC will be keeping their website up to date with accomplishments or changes they organize. 

Kopko hopes that this committee will make Eckerd a safe, inclusive place for all students, regardless of race. 

“Eckerd is a special place and we want to make sure that every student, from any background, can enjoy what it has to offer,” Kopko said.

Chloe Carter contributed to reporting

Co-Sports Editor

Genesis is a sophomore majoring in communication and minoring in journalism and Spanish. She plays on the Eckerd women's soccer team and is a huge The Office fan.

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