Rider, MAAC make stand for social justice

By Shaun Chornobroff

In the midst of an ongoing conversation about racial injustice and police brutality in the United States, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) announced the “MAAC United for Justice” campaign on Aug. 20, designed to educate and combat racial injustices within the country.

The campaign came as a result of the MAAC Council of Presidents’ June 2 statement on racism and the public outcry in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.

“The MAAC is committed to work with others in college sports to seek ways to foster understanding and achieve permanent change to reverse the legacy of racial injustice and discrimination in this country,” the conference said in its June statement.

The campaign, like many of the important conversations in this country, was pushed by the young voices who are members of the MAAC Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).

“The campaign was established by the MAAC SAAC during the course of the summer as a result of all the issues within the country and the killings of the different members of the community, whether it be George Floyd or Breonna Taylor,” MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor told The Rider News.

“It was really one that they developed, we just nurtured from the conference office by providing resources and other support so they can get the campaign together.”

The campaign has already started to show within the 11-member conference, as the MAAC launched an initiative for voter registration. Ensor explained that the SAAC believes, “that through the ballot box they can affect social change.”

Rider Athletics launched the “Bronc the Vote” initiative in part with the MAAC’s Voter Registration Initiative on Aug. 27.

“The conference-level student athlete advisory committee has been working hard alongside the MAAC to prepare our athletes, coaches and community members for the upcoming elections,” said senior Matt Siley, Rider’s SAAC president and a track and field athlete, as part of the Aug. 27 announcement.

“Through a multi-step process, our goal is to register every athlete to vote across the respective 11 institutions of the MAAC. We seek to professionally inform our community about the process of registering, provide information on various parties and candidates, and contribute to both federal and local elections. It is estimated that around 100 million people did not vote in the previous election, and whether that be due to lack of knowledge or lack of means, we want our community’s voice heard.”

The MAAC SAAC is putting together a number of other initiatives, according to Ensor. At the time of speaking with Ensor, a diversity committee was being formed, along with a reading program being put into place. Ensor added that he’s been “pretty pleased” with the campaign thus far.

The MAAC has concentrated a large part of the campaign’s visual efforts towards the basketball season.

This upcoming season basketball programs will be displaying Black Lives Matter messaging on their warm-up shirts and patches. The conference will likely put Black Lives Matter decals on basketball courts and is allowing programs to produce video messages to be displayed.

Ensor is particularly pleased that individual athletes now have a voice within the conference.

“We encourage our student athletes to have the opportunity to express their views on important issues,” Ensor said. “The mental health of the student athletes is important. This ties into that because it gives them a way to express some of the angst their feeling with some of the recent events in our society, so to an extent we can provide an outlet for that, through positive change and messaging.”

Ensor said that players’ voices were “extremely important” to many of the coaches, adding that coaches “were very active right from the get-go … this was an opportunity for them to show positive change for their athletes who are so concerned with these issues.”

Rider men’s basketball Head Coach Kevin Baggett has been very active and outspoken in the past few months about the racial issues plaguing the country, making multiple powerful statements.

“We are trying to promote unity and equality for all mankind. Break down social biases when it comes to Black/brown people and all people of color. The MAAC’s goal when it comes to men’s and women’s basketball, which is dominated by Blacks, is to promote that Black Lives Matter on behalf of our players and Black coaches,” Baggett said in the campaign’s press release.

“My personal goal is to educate as many people on the importance that Black Lives Matter, just as all lives matter. To continue to carry out Dr. Martin Luther King’s message ‘that one day we wouldn’t be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.’ This is very important to me because it’s time for change. We have been dealing with these same issues for over 400 years and enough is enough. We will no longer put up with it and I think there are a lot of white Americans who are finally waking up and saying enough is enough on our behalf.”

Baggett also made a statement on June 3, as racial tensions were growing within the United States.

Baggett also showed his support for a new non-profit organization called the “Advancement of Blacks in Sports” on Sept. 3. The organization’s mission is to help Black people within sports attain economic, racial and social justice.

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