• Atlantis Warren

ETSU supports student athletes

In addition to proving to outsiders that student athletes are more than just athletes and maneuvering through COVID-19, black student athletes continue to fight the reality of racism.


Peaceful marches in the name of equality have been prevalent since the civil rights era. In a predominately white town, East Tennessee State University athletics have taken many initiatives to provide a safe haven for their student athletes, one of which to showcase the support system that resides at East Tennessee State University.


On September 30, East Tennessee State University athletics department held a march for social justice.


Among hundreds of athletes present, East Tennessee State University track and field athlete Kendra Whitehurst expressed how this initiative was a step in the right direction.


While multiple people are wondering what is next, Whitehurst expressed, “there can always be more done.”


In the meantime, East Tennessee State University athletics have started a 12-part video series called “Jerseys for Social Justice.” Revealed on the East Tennessee State University athletics site, this 12-part series will include six black student athletes, two black coaches, and administrators within the athletics department.


During this catastrophe, ETSU has created a platform for their athletes to be informative. While some may view this as a small gesture, student athletes like Alyssa Ceja-Pena have felt that she made the right decision coming to ETSU.

Ceja-Pena, a California native and Mexican American, confessed she’d never seen confederate flags until she came to Johnson City, Tenn. However, the unity walks and the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, Scott Carter, have made her feel welcomed as a person of color.


Some black or person of color student athletes may not deal with racism firsthand every day, however there are thousands of black people who die as a result of racism.

“It is not normal to see black people being lynched and becoming a hashtag every week,” said student athlete Aliyah Hill.


History has shown some of the disparities black people have had to deal with due to racism. The American Academy of Family Physicians addresses the topic of institutional racism in the health care system.


While publicly acknowledging their 0 tolerance of any form of racism, several points were made.


“While segregation and discrimination based on race and ethnicity is no longer legal today, some organizations continue to discriminate based on insurance status, which also disproportionately impacts non-white populations,” The American Academy of Family Physicians revealed on their site.


Melanie Ferris, research scientist at Wilder Research, reveals in a piece written for MinnPost that racism is in fact a public health emergency.


“However, structural racism - which doesn’t require individual intent - is also present in how these systems function, leading to racial disparities across multiple outcomes, including health and well-being,” reported Ferris.


Ceja-Pena, a nursing major, indicated how important it is for her, a person of color, to enter the medical field. By taking advantage of East Tennessee State University’s nursing program, Ceja-Pena is hopeful that she will be among many who will carry the agenda to irradicate the intuitional racism that continues to exist within the medical field.


East Tennessee State University athletics brings more diversity to the campus every year. Although the physical cameras are not rolling behind the scenes, a multitude of athletes have disclosed that Carter has done a wonderful job in showing his stance in the height of racism since the death of George Floyd.


These same athletes have also revealed that seeing so much support from not only their athletic administrative staff, but ETSU students and some residents in the Johnson City area has made them feel as if they are finally being heard and they have a small village behind them.



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