Graphic by Sybil Simpson

After racist tweets by a former Marauder were brought to light, former Mac athletes began to share their stories and the university’s lack of response.

CW: anti-Black racism, police brutality

Since the widespread protests in the United States and globally following the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, many professional athletes have taken it upon themselves to further educate others and raise awareness about the acts of racial injustice plaguing their communities, especially those consisting of police brutality; however, this is not new to many athletes this year.

In 2016, Colin Kaepernick began the movement of kneeling during the national anthem, where he was met with support and anguish. Over the years, Kaepernick became a leading civil rights activist despite being blackballed by team owners for his outspoken views. 

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” Kaepernick said in a post-game interview during a 2016-2017 preseason game.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Kaepernick said in a post-game interview during a 2016-2017 preseason game.

Kaepernick’s statement comes two years after many NBA players made a statement in their games where they wore t-shirts saying, “I Can’t Breathe” following the death of Eric Garner, who repeatedly said those words while being put in a chokehold by police officers. A reminder that those three words were also uttered by Floyd four years later. Likewise to Kaepernick, these athletes still continue to face heavy scrutiny where comments about their salary are made, suggesting that such athletes did not experience systemic racism due to their wealth and financial stability.

Fast forward to 2019, Masai Ujiri was blocked and shoved by the Alameda County sheriff from celebrating with his team due to allegedly not having the correct credentials. A new video released in August 2020 showed otherwise where Ujiri was shoved while having his credentials. The public viewed this incident as a classic case of racial profiling, despite status or wealth being present.

As we look more recently, following the game seven loss by the Toronto Raptors in the 2020 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the public heavily critiqued Pascal Siakam’s play; however, it was brought to our attention that some fans have gone too far and made racial attacks against him.

The aforementioned stories have shined the light on the racism that athletes face consistently but continues to be ignored. As we look more directly at our own community, former lacrosse team player Steven Archachan was only removed from the team (but not from the university) following the revelation of tweets that featured racist slurs. With that being said, Archachan removed himself from the university and stated he would not be attending in the future. Archachan has since apologized for his tweets, while stating to one of our reporters that he was dealing with issues affecting his mental health and well-being at that time.

Kwasi Adu-Poku, a fifth-year kinesiology student at McMaster University and current member of the men’s basketball team, shared his thoughts on the handling of the situation. 

“When they released the article through CBC Hamilton on the situation, when they described [Archachan] choosing to leave the school, it kind of made him seem like the bigger person in the situation and when you think about the scope of what happened, a lot of people were impacted by this message,” Adu-Poku said. “It wasn’t the best thing to let that person paint themselves in that kind of light . . . a lot of us felt there could have been a stronger response at the time but our school is definitely on the trajectory to make a lot of the needed changes and now we’re being held publicly accountable.”

“When they released the article through CBC Hamilton on the situation, when they described [Archachan] choosing to leave the school, it kind of made him seem like the bigger person in the situation and when you think about the scope of what happened, a lot of people were impacted by this message,” Adu-Poku said. “It wasn’t the best thing to let that person paint themselves in that kind of light . . . a lot of us felt there could have been a stronger response at the time but our school is definitely on the trajectory to make a lot of the needed changes and now we’re being held publicly accountable.”

As the case of Archachan began to unfold, former Marauder athletes came forward with their stories. Fabion Foote, a former football player at McMaster, has detailed the systemic racism he faced while on the team. 

“My DL coach at Mac said I had to sell weed to afford my tuition lol. Keep in mind I never smoked in my life. My friend was in a group chat were a white athlete used the N word. My teammate reported it to the coaches and they some how managed to blame us for it,” Foote stated among a series of tweets discussing the systemic racism he endured while at McMaster.

“My DL coach at Mac said I had to sell weed to afford my tuition lol. Keep in mind I never smoked in my life. My friend was in a group chat were a white athlete used the N word. My teammate reported it to the coaches and they some how managed to blame us for it,” Foote stated among a series of tweets discussing the systemic racism he endured while at McMaster.

The racial profiling Foote experienced was echoed by John Williams, a former McMaster athlete who penned a letter via a Google Form, detailing the failures of the university attempting to support the Black and Indigenous community while asking people to support his statement. 

“One former athlete detailed how a certain post practice locker room day of the week was entitled “White Boy Wednesdays” where only “White Music” was allowed to be played. Another athlete spoke about how when the team travelled to Toronto the other white teammates asked them if they were “going to be shot by any of the brothers?” Another Black former female athlete spoke about her feelings of isolation while being on the team and how she felt treated differently by coaches,” wrote Williams.

“One former athlete detailed how a certain post practice locker room day of the week was entitled “White Boy Wednesdays” where only “White Music” was allowed to be played. Another athlete spoke about how when the team travelled to Toronto the other white teammates asked them if they were “going to be shot by any of the brothers?” Another Black former female athlete spoke about her feelings of isolation while being on the team and how she felt treated differently by coaches,” wrote Williams.

Williams also claimed that former Director of Athletics, Glen Grunwald, current Director, Mark Alfano and Dean of Students Sean Van Koughnett did not take action on the issues Black football athletes endured while on the team. 

Following the various critiques, the university announced in July they are conducting a review into the countless experiences of Black athletes and investigating the racism within the department of athletics, which will be headed by Van Koughnett. He aims to hire more Black leaders in the McMaster Athletics department.

Adu-Poku explained to us his appreciation for Van Koughnett’s willingness to work with him and open-ears regarding a discussion about celebrating Black history. Adu-Poku also spoke to non-athletes in the McMaster Black student community and echoed their hopes that this review could act as a blueprint to combat systemic racism in an academic setting.

From Foote’s story to Archachan’s racial slurs, it shows that over the years, racism has never really left the McMaster Athletics department. It was just a matter of time until serious demands for accountability occurred.

Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.