The Kansas women’s basketball team organized and led a march in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and social justice Friday afternoon on the University of Kansas' campus.
The team first organized the march Thursday after a week of protests and boycotts in response to a recent viral video displaying a white police officer shooting Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, multiple times in the back in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
🗣 CALLING ALL JAYHAWKS ‼️Come join our team 𝐭𝐨𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐫𝐨𝐰 in support of Black Lives Matter and the fight against social injustice. Find us by Stouffer apartments starting at 1pm.Anyone is welcome to join! *Don't forget to wear your mask*#BlackLivesMatter x #KUwbb pic.twitter.com/jTD178GkQP— Kansas Women's Bball (@KUWBball) August 28, 2020
Hundreds of students and student-athletes showed up at the Stouffer Place Apartments where members of the women’s basketball team took turns addressing the crowd about social injustice. The march continued down Jayhawk Boulevard and gather on the field at the David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. The march lasted about an hour.
Demonstrators marched for about three miles chanting, “No justice, no peace,” and, “Say her name,” in reference to recent police killings. One person wore a shirt with seven bullet holes depicted on the back to reference the seven times Jacob Blake was shot in the back.
Multiple KU leaders attended the march, including Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer, Chancellor Douglas Girod and athletic director Jeff Long.
“The march that took place here today was powerful," Long said. "I’m very proud of [the women’s basketball student-athletes]. [The march] happened like fire hitting black pavement because these women stood up.”
Former KU men’s basketball player Wayne Simien spoke at the end of the march.
“Let’s allow [this march] to mark our lives in being committed to a lifetime of promoting peace and unity and equity and diversity,” Simien said.
Simien also pointed out that the march was held on the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March on Washington and the 65th anniversary of Emmett Till’s murder.
Multiple speakers have pointed out today is the anniversary of Emmett Till’s murder and the March on Washington. They’ve urged people to keep up the fight and register to vote as well.— Blake Ullmann (@blake_ullmann) August 28, 2020
The shooting of Jacob Blake, among other recent shootings by police, led to boycotts among professional and intercollegiate leagues. Athletes from the NBA, WNBA, MLB, and MLS halted their respective seasons Wednesday in order to stand against and call further attention to systemic racism and police brutality.
These boycotts inspired the Kansas football, women’s and men’s basketball teams to cancel their practices Thursday to signify their support of the fight against systemic racism and police brutality.
Kansas football coach Les Miles released a statement Friday morning showing his support. Miles said he “is and always will be” with his players in support of social justice.
I’m with you. pic.twitter.com/lkEKIBMD3X— Les Miles (@CoachLesMiles) August 28, 2020
“I stand in support of the leadership of this football team to not conduct practice [Thursday] because of the ongoing social injustice, as well as the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake,” Miles said on Twitter. “We once again find ourselves at a crossroads, and action must be taken to peacefully protest these reoccurring hate crimes on Black men and women. Football can wait, but continuing to shine our bright light on these inequities and showing that Black Lives Matter cannot.”
Miles was also in attendance at the march to show his support of his team and other Kansas athletes.
The men’s basketball team took Thursday off to watch the Netflix documentary, “13th,” in place of practice. The documentary explores racial inequality and the history of the mass incarceration of Black people in the United States.
“Today, the team and staff took the day off to watch ‘13th’ together,” said a post on the team's Twitter account. “We will continue to promote open conversations. We will continue to educate, listen, and learn. There are some things much bigger than basketball.”
Today, the team and staff took the day off to watch 𝟏𝟑𝐭𝐡 together.We will continue to promote open conversations. We will continue to educate, listen, and learn. There are some things much bigger than basketball. pic.twitter.com/zjhGUOIRef— Kansas Basketball (@KUHoops) August 27, 2020
Women’s basketball coach Brandon Schneider also took to Twitter to praise the conversations the team had during what was supposed to be their practice time Thursday.
What we accomplished in the locker room today was far more productive than any time we could have spent on the court - so proud of our players and their voices - grateful to be their coach and ally— Brandon Schneider (@CoachBrandonKU) August 27, 2020
“What we accomplished in the locker room [Thursday] was far more productive than any time we could have spent on the court,” Schneider said on Twitter. “So proud of our players and their voices — grateful to be their coach and ally.”