Illinois State athletes protest against racial injustice after their athletic director stated ‘All Redbirds Lives Matter’


Madelyn Kidd, Editor-in-Chief

On Aug. 26 Illinois State University, ISU, Redbirds Athletic Director Larry Lyons stated, “All Redbirds Lives Matter,” in an athletic department Zoom call. This led to 16 of 17 athletic teams, minus the baseball team, to boycott participation in any athletic activities. The ISU athletes in continuance of the boycott, organized a peaceful protest in Normal, Ill. at 6 p.m. Sept. 4. 

In response to Lyons statement along with boycotting, coaches, athletes and alumni athletes reacted on Twitter. Mary Wood, associate head coach for ISU track and field, tweeted, “The movement is BLACK LIVES MATTER. The statement ‘All Redbird Lives Matters’ is insensitive and frankly one that attempts to drown the movement.” 

Men’s track athlete Kimathi Johnson tweeted, “As athletes, we demand change, we demand safety and we demand a commitment to ensuring black lives matter at ISU. There are still many more voices to be heard from our fellow athletes. However, we must know the administration is committed to change first.”

Denver Broncos cornerback Davontee Harris, an ISU alumni who was a three-year starter and All American whilst there, tweeted in response to the news. “WAIT WHAT? They gone make me disassociate myself with Illinois state as a whole.”

The next day there was another athletic department Zoom call in which Lyons apologized for what he said the previous day. He released a statement before the video call, “Black Lives Matter. I understand that and I support that. They need to hear that from me. I need to apologize to them. It was a comment that was offensive to our student-athletes. I have to own that, and I do regret the comment.” 

 Harris replied to Lyons statement on Twitter. He tweeted, “He was fully aware of what he was doing… We can’t keep allowing people to pretend like they don’t know any better…”

The ISU athletic department also released an action plan for social change. However, there are mixed responses to the plan from students. Women’s track athlete Mya Robinson reported to the campus radio station, WGLT, “It’s more than just having diversity on campus, it’s the fact that we go through so much and you would never know until you ask, but they never ask. That’s one of the main problems. They really don’t know the Black student-athletes on campus.” She further called for Lyons to resign from being the athletic director. 

Whereas, volleyball athlete and vice president of ISU’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Kendee Hilliard told WGLT, “I feel as though Mr. Lyons owned up to his insensitive comment. To me, he was apologetic and has committed to taking steps forward to making this athletics department better and one that alumni, current Redbirds and future Redbirds should be proud of.”

Student athletes from University of Illinois also led a peaceful protest in Champaign, Ill. on Aug. 31 against racial injustice in society. They led the march of hundreds of people to the Champaign Police Department where they had a moment of silence to remember the victims of police brutality.

Even though the media is covering peaceful protests less and less, they are still occurring all across America to give a voice to those who are now voiceless, and now many college athletes are starting to help lead these protests.

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