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Webinar explores women’s sports, race and activism

Athletes & ActivismThe inspirations, trials, frustrations and joys of being a female athlete, and specifically a female athlete of color, were explored March 11 during an online webinar featuring four Creighton University-connected women.

Titled “Athletes & Activism: Past, Present and Future,” the 90-minute discussion featured former Creighton women’s basketball star and current Atlanta Dream WNBA player Jaylyn Agnew; current Creighton women’s basketball player Mykel Parham; Creighton women’s basketball assistant coach Jordann Reese; and former Creighton women’s basketball assistant coach and onetime all-conference Bluejay Chevelle Saunsoci.

It is critically important, the women said, to establish “safe spaces” where people can discuss issues honestly and without fear of recrimination.

Parham, a native of Minnesota, where the death of George Floyd while being arrested by a Minneapolis police office sparked nationwide protests last year, said she participated in and helped organize protests in the greater Minneapolis area.

“I think of all those miles that I walked and all the hours that I spent standing as so valuable and so important because, although we didn’t exactly get the justice that we were seeking, we really started a movement,” she said.

The visibility granted to athletes increases the opportunity to bring change, Parham said. “If you can use your voice for good, why would you not?” she said. “Even if your voice is just a whisper, the person next to you is going to hear, and maybe that person has a bigger voice and more people will be able to hear from there.

“If you can do that little bit, why would you not?”

Saunsoci, reaching beyond racial controversy, said women athletes generally are still walking a path to equality with their male counterparts and are subjected to standards that rarely apply to men.

“I think women who are super competitive are portrayed in a certain way, whether it be a black woman or a white woman,” she said. “The consistent thing you see, especially on social media, which can be pretty toxic at times, is that women are supposed to be a certain way.”

Unfavorable portrayal of aggressive and competitive women — which, all four panelists pointed out, is a standard never imposed on male athletes — was one of several areas they said they would like to see improve. Others area included calls for sports media to devote more attention to women’s athletics; limiting “first woman to …” stories given the widespread and established presence of women in the American workplace; increased representation of women, and especially women of color, in all sports roles whether on the court or in the boardroom; and a de-emphasis on the appearance of female athletes.

“Don’t talk about us as if we have to be pretty in order to get attention from the men who watch us,” said Reese. “Watch us for the beauty of the sport. That really gets under my skin.”

Reese summed up the experience of being a woman in high-level college athletics as part of life’s journey of learning.

“It’s part of the college experience that you begin to discover things about yourself and that you are exposed to a whole new world,” she said. “I’m not a big fan of assumptions, so I want to know everything I need to know about you so that we can build chemistry.

“That experience of learning more about other races and other upbringings will make you stronger as a person and build your character. Talk to your teammates. You’ll be amazed at what comes in the way of discovery. You might learn more than you would have expected.”

The full webinar can be viewed at:


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