Social justice on the school field

Tyler Wong, THO Editor

A team of football coaches, many of whom have experienced racial inequality first hand, ignited protests across Thousand Oaks High School, inspired by recent national sports team’s protests in support of Black Lives Matter (BLM).

As other California high schools have allowed political messaging onto the pitch, Northwood coaches, players and athletic directors have begun discussing exactly how to appropriately handle calls for protesting racial injustice within high school sports.

“As an IUSD staff, social justice and student safety are at the top of our priorities, and it is a topic of conversation within the athletics department,” Athletics Director Sierra Wang said. “We are looking forward to having this conversation as the year progresses.”

Athletes using the playing field as a platform for protests has been a conversation for decades. During a medal ceremony in the 1968 Summer Olympics, Tommie Smith and John Carlos each raised a black-gloved fist, a sign commonly associated with the phrase “Black Power,” resulting in their expulsion from the games. In 2016, former 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick made national headlines for kneeling during the national anthem.

This summer, teams from the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Major League Baseball (MLB) boycotted games in response to another police shooting of a black man, an action which resonated with other sports and inspired them to take the same actions. The Los Angeles Lakers, as well as many other teams across all leagues, are wearing uniforms emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter,” and the slogan also appears on the basketball court at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, where the NBA restart has been taking place. The expansion to the international stage, through soccer players’ goal celebrations, has expanded BLM’s agenda outside the country, in addition to the constant vocal push for reform.

In light of the statewide social justice movement ignited in Thousand Oaks, some Northwood student-athletes have expressed a desire to follow the example of the professional athletes, although the fall sports season is on hold for now,

“The incorporation of BLM into high school sports is a great way to show support and help spread awareness of the movement,” junior Kade Acab said. “It’s about being treated as equally as the person next to you on the field, no matter who they are.”

As Northwood and IUSD officials begin their conversations, there remains uncertainty about what the future holds for student support.