For The Love Of The Game: When Sports, Race & Activism Collide

At a time when America is facing a long-awaited racial reckoning, we’re seeing change sweep across every industry. Sports is no exception, as more college and professional athletes refuse to just “shut up and play.” There are athletes like Makur Maker (now at Howard University), who are choosing to take their talents to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) over predominately white institutions (PWI). And there’s former football player Deion Sanders, whose goal is to put HBCU football back in primetime with his decision to become a first-time coach at Mississippi’s Jackson State.
In the latest episode of Go Off, Sis, the podcast from Refinery29’s Unbothered, the hosts go hard in the paint with WNBA hoop star Chinenye “Chiney” Ogwumike, the All-Star player who is the first Black woman to host a national radio show for ESPN, while holding down her power forward spot on the LA Sparks.
“I know we feel really passionately about shouting out the WNBA, [an organization] that has been about this [activism] life for a really long time," says Danielle Cadet, Go Off, Sis host. “The league and players have been speaking out about police brutality. They’ve been speaking out about Black Lives Matter for quite some time.”
Ogwumike credits Stanford University for helping her realize that athletes are capable of more than just crushing it on the court, track, or field. “I didn’t even know that it was a possibility for me to speak out on social justice issues and put pressure on the system — whether it’s my school or my coach for accountability,” says Ogwumike, who is a part of LeBron James’ More Than a Vote coalition. “Ownership matters. What we’re striving for is to be an owner of our own brands and our own communities, so that we can funnel as much good into it as we can."
Late in the episode, Ogwumike and the hosts discuss how Black “existence is the resistance,” the challenges of putting your body on the line as a student athlete, and how HBCU students go hard for the game and the marching band at the same damn time.
For more sports-meets-advocacy convo and the importance of enlightening others who don’t share your same POV, listen to the full episode, below.

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