Every February in the U.S. is Black History Month, a time when we celebrate the contributions made by African-Americans while also remembering their history and struggles. From the earliest days of our nation, African-Americans have made enormous contributions to our society.
We also get a unique perspective about black history through sports. Professional sports, such as football and basketball, are dominated by African-American athletes every single year. We sit and cheer them on, we celebrate their victories and most of us would give our left arms to have certain players on our favorite professional teams (Lebron James to the Utah Jazz?).
Junior wing Tanaeya Boclair and sophomore guard Erika Bean, two African-American athletes on the University of Utah women’s basketball team, are in the midst of a 15-10 season with their team and recently returned from a road trip that saw the team split games against Cal and Stanford, and both hold strong opinions about Black History Month.
“I definitely think it should be celebrated,” said Boclair. “I think it is a time to remember past experiences, what other people succeeded in and with what we’re also going through now, I think history is still being made every day.”
Boclair also mentioned that the recent activism in American society is starting to give African-Americans a voice where they might not have had one previously. Bean couldn’t agree more.
“I think its a turning point for our culture,” Bean said. “Even now it just brings greater awareness to the black community and I think it’s just [about] remembering the past and how it has shaped where we are today.”
Basketball is the number one sport in terms of the percentage of African-American athletes. The NBA is comprised of over 76 percent African-American athletes, and while college and professional sports are two different things, Boclair and Bean said that sports can be a great outlet for so many young African-Americans who may be in bad situations.
“Especially the African-American women who have played before us and set standards for what it means to be an African-American female in the game of basketball, how you can gain an education through that, how you can gain recognition through your accomplishments and where that can get you,” Boclair said.
Boclair continued to explain how important it was for African-American athletes to use their position to bring attention to issues that are important in our society.
“I think especially within the NBA, having so many African-American males in that sport, knowing where they’ve come from and using that as a stage to raise awareness and to teach kids, I think that shows young kids the importance of being an African-American male,” Boclair said. “It shows them that these professionals accept their culture and that they like being black.”
Bean said that sports are a great platform and feels with basketball being a little bit more of a diversified sport, it creates a great outlet for professional athletes to reach younger generations and other races.
The pair also agreed that issues of importance should be brought up by athletes. While some people think that athletes should stick solely to entertaining the crowds, Bean and Boclair said that while they think issues could be brought up in a more delicate manner, they should still be brought up. Saying that issues of importance in our society are “bigger than the game,” these issues should be brought up to bring awareness to what is happening in the black community.