The United Black Student Athlete Association (UBSAA) exists to empower and protect Black student-athletes at USC by providing a community, creating a safe space for them, and giving them a voice to advocate for support within USC Athletics and USC as a whole. The UBSAA strives to use its position of influence in order to improve circumstances for the Black community within USC and beyond it.
On May 31, 2020, a group of student-athletes and USC Athletics administrators, coaches, and staff came together for a town hall to discuss the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Black Lives Matter, and racial inequality. Initiative from Sade Adamonlekun, Anna Cockrell, and Bailey Lear helped transform what was initially conceived as a one-off meeting into a full-blown organization. During that meeting, the student-athletes present voted to create a new organization and title it the United Black Student-Athletes Association.
Statement issued 6.17.2020 to the USC Athletic Administration and Athletic Director Mike Bohn
It is long overdue for Black student-athletes at USC and our non-Black allies to come
together and speak out against racial injustice and police brutality. Given our unique position and platform as athletes at a prestigious university, we cannot remain silent on these issues.
Black Lives Matter, and we say the names of those we have recently lost: George Floyd,
Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery, David McAtee, Tony McDade, Sandra
Bland, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and too many others.
We are not student-athletes who happen to be Black, but Black students who happen to
be athletes. Our Blackness is not something we can turn off. We are hurting, and we feel
compelled to make a statement and urge USC and USC Athletics to take bold, decisive action to combat racial inequality and support Black students.
To better advocate for change within USC and beyond, we have formed a new
organization entitled the United Black Student-Athletes Association (UBSAA). UBSAA exists to empower and protect Black student-athletes at USC by providing a community, creating a safe space for them, and giving them a voice to advocate for support within USC Athletics and at USC as a whole. The UBSAA strives to use its position of influence to improve circumstances for the Black community within USC and beyond. Since formation, we have been working to bring awareness to issues that affect our university and the greater Black community overall; these include voter registration and information drive, a podcast series, and community service events we can host upon returning to campus. We recognize the changes and initiatives that are necessary to effectuate change within our Athletic Department and on our campus; however, we need investment and further commitment from USC Athletics to see real change.
While we recognize that Athletic Director Mike Bohn and many coaches have issued
statements of support and the Athletic Department recently cut ties with a booster who professed hate speech, there is much more work to be done. It is not enough for the Athletic Department to release public statements and post on social media. They must support their words with sustained action and commitment to the Black community. The USBAA stands in solidarity with the Black Student Assembly (BSA) and endorses BSA’s call to action released earlier this month. USBAA implores that USC Athletics directly address the following issues and concerns by the beginning of the fall semester as we Fight On for a better and more inclusive USC for Black students:
• STATE THAT BLACK LIVES MATTER – The Athletic Department must unequivocally state that Black Lives Matter. Declaring this should not be a controversial or difficult decision for the Department. Black student-athletes put our bodies on the line as representatives for USC each time we attend practice and compete. Many of us choose to leave home, traveling across the country or internationally, to come to USC because we are told of the strength of the Trojan Family and that USC will take care of us. Now is the time for the USC Athletic Department to make good on those promises and demonstrate that we are not only valued for our athletic performances but valued as human beings. USC Athletics must say that our lives matter, that Black Lives Matter, regardless of their athletic or financial value to the university. USC Athletics must prioritize our lives and well-being over pandering to boosters and donors.
• PROMISE OF NO RETALIATION FOR PUBLIC STATEMENTS – The Department must guarantee that student-athletes will not face retaliation if they choose to protest or speak publicly on racial injustice and in support of Black Lives Matter. The Athletic Department mandates meetings and training about media interviews and social media use. Student athletes are required to sign and accept social media guidelines that stipulate penalties they may face if their profile and its contents violate the Department’s rules. Additionally, individual teams have their own policies surrounding activism, public statements, and social media. We need assurance from the Athletic Department that student-athletes are free to speak out, post on social media, and participate in protests and public demonstrations without fear of any retaliation. Retaliation includes, but is not limited to, reduction in playing time, reduction in financial aid, suspension, or dismissal from their team. Furthermore, USC Athletics must designate a staff member or convene a group that students can go to for assistance if they believe they are being punished for speaking out, or have racist encounters with teammates, fans, or boosters.
• INCLUDE STUDENT-ATHLETES IN DISCUSSIONS REGARDING COVID-19 AND RETURN TO CAMPUS – The Athletic Department needs to include student-athletes in discussions regarding health and safety in regards to COVID-19 as we prepare to return to campus and begin practicing again, especially in light of the fact that COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting the Black community. USC Athletics recently sent out a survey to find out how students are feeling, but so far that has been the lone opportunity for us to speak on the subject. While we are eager to return, our health must not be put at risk for the sake of bringing sports back and generating revenue. Open and consistent dialogue between the Athletic Department and student-athletes is the only way to ensure all concerns are addressed and that students are informed of how we will be protected.
• ENSURE TROJAN ATHLETIC SENATE (TAS) IS INCLUSIVE AND REPRESENTATIVE – TAS exists to facilitate communication between student-athletes and the Athletic Department and build cohesion and community among all teams. However, meetings are not always widely announced in advance, certain teams seem to dominate membership, and many student-athletes are confused about TAS’s purpose and do not feel it is inclusive. The Athletic Department and TAS must ensure the organization is diverse and has full sport representation and participation.
• COMMIT TO SEEKING A DIVERSE APPLICANT POOL AND CONSIDERING BLACK CANDIDATES FOR OPEN POSITIONS – A necessary action the Athletic Department must take is to make staff reflective of student-athletes by duly considering and hiring Black candidates when positions are open. The Department must widely promote open positions and seek out Black candidates to apply. Two areas within the Department that have a glaring lack of diversity are Sports Psychology and Athletic Medicine. While we recognize that USC maintains a Sports Psychology department when many other universities do not, it is a travesty that USC Athletics does not employ any Black psychologists. The public, horrific murders of unarmed Black Americans, coupled with COVID-19’s effect on the Black community, is causing more psychological stress on Black student-athletes than ever before. It is shameful and unacceptable that no one in the Sports Psych department can relate and understand Black students on this cultural and ethnic level. Similarly, the Black community faces systemic racism in health care access. There is currently only one Black staff member in Athletic Medicine. Hiring more Black staff members within the Athletic Medicine department would provide greater understanding for Black student-athletes. Black people must be represented, supported, and present at all levels of the Athletic Department.
• DEVELOP A PIPELINE THAT TRAINS AND FACILITATES HIRING OF BLACK STAFF – The Athletic Department must commit to training and providing professional development for Black staff. This can take the form of offering career development outreach for current Black staff members and creating a Diversity and Inclusion Fellowship that allows student-athletes who have exhausted their eligibility but are still taking classes at USC to work on a rotational basis with different departments within USC Athletics. Not only will this create a stronger workforce at USC, but it could benefit other schools in the NCAA by creating a larger talent pool of experienced and well-trained Black administrators. Doing this will prevent universities from trying to justify failures to consider and hire Black staff by arguing there are insufficient qualified Black candidates when positions open up.
• GENERATE FAN AWARENESS & ENCOURAGE DONATIONS – It is imperative that USC Athletics have an ongoing relationship and dialogue with UBSAA, Black student-athlete alumni, the Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs (CBCSA), and the USC BSA to determine further outreach and actions USC Athletics can undertake beyond this moment. The Department must take immediate action to support current protests and Black Lives Matter by directing fans and supporters to donate to Black organizations and bail funds for protestors.
• IMPLEMENT MANDATORY IN-PERSON IMPLICIT BIAS TRAINING – President Folt announced that USC will begin implementing mandatory online training for everyone associated with the school. Athletics can take this further and require in-person anti-racist training for all student-athletes and Athletics staff, as this form tends to be more impactful and meaningful. Student-athletes receive multiple in-person trainings on Title IX, academic integrity, and other important topics; implicit bias and anti-racist training should become part of this lineup. Student-athletes have reported being on the receiving end of both microaggressions and outright racism. Training will reduce these occurrences and allow Black students and allies to not only cope with these things, but also actively combat them.
• MANDATE NO REQUIRED ATHLETIC-RELATED ACTIVITIES ON ELECTION DAYS – In following the NCAA Board of Governors’ recommendation, the Athletic Department should strongly encourage civic engagement as a means of effectuating positive changes in our communities. To reinforce this belief, all student-athletes should be excused from any athletic-related activities to ensure they can exercise their right to vote.
• CREATE CELEBRATIONS AND EVENTS FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH – It is not enough for USC to speak solely at this moment and make passive posts about race only on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and during Black History Month. USC Athletics must sponsor a Black History Month event. This event can be modeled after the Coming Out Day event that USC Athletics already sponsors – the creation and free giveaway of a T-shirt for students and staff to wear, and a month filled with speakers, panels, presentations, and food.
• COMMIT TO STUDENT-ATHLETE ATTENDANCE AT THE BLACK STUDENT-ATHLETE SUMMIT – The Athletic Department must provide funding for at least two student-athletes and an advisor/staff member to attend the Black Student-Athlete Summit annually. Attendance will allow USC student-athletes to form bonds with students from different schools, discuss culturally relevant topics, and learn best practices in use at other schools and potentially implement them at USC.
• ESTABLISH A COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY AND BLACK LIVES MATTER ENDOWED SCHOLARSHIP – In further displaying support for the lives of Black people across the globe and in memory and acknowledgment of Black lives lost to racism and police brutality, we demand that the Athletic Department endow a graduate scholarship for students who have dedicated significant service to the improvement of the Black community and exhausted their NCAA eligibility. A panel convened explicitly for this purpose would determine recipients. Additionally, the Athletic Department should collaborate with CBCSA and the Black Alumni Association to source donors and fund scholarships for Black students that do not participate in athletics.
This list of initiatives is not exhaustive. It should be seen as the first step in communication with the Athletic Department to fully identify all changes necessary to align USC Athletics’ practices with its mission of promoting the well-being of student-athletes and creating equitable opportunities for all students and staff. Collaboration between the UBSAA, the Athletic Department, and other Black organizations on-campus and in the Los Angeles community will facilitate these changes and work out the details for outlined programs and policies, ultimately ensuring that everyone – regardless of race – can fully experience and appreciate being a member of the Trojan Family.