Dozens of Bradley University student athletes staged a peaceful demonstration Tuesday night, protesting racial injustice and inequality.
Nearly 100 players, coaches, family members, and university administrators marched from Bradley’s Renaissance Coliseum down Main Street to the Peoria Civic Center, where they held a brief rally in memory of George Floyd.
Chris Reynolds, director of athletics, addressed the pain and anger so many of his athletes are feeling in the wake of Floyd’s murder.
“We’ve seen it many times and I don’t know about you, but every time I see it, it makes me sick,” Reynolds said.
Reaffirming what the department said in a statement released last week, Reynolds assured athletes that their right to protest will be respected by coaches and staff.
“What our student athletes want to do, we’re going to be locked arm-in-arm with them -- 1,000% behind our student athletes,” he said. “Let me be clear: everything we do in the athletics department, we’re going to do it the right way. We’re going to do it peacefully and we’re going to do it — really do it with passion.”
Sophomore Terry Nolan Jr. of the Bradley Braves men’s basketball team reflected on how he felt watching Floyd’s funeral processions that afternoon.
“As I watching it, the word ‘moment’ kept coming to my mind. ‘Moment.’ We can’t allow George Floyd’s moment of death to just be a moment. We need his moment to catapult our movement,” Nolan said.
He said many are questioning how they can help and what they can do.
“I’ve got three things for you,” Nolan said. “One, keep supporting Black lives. That means keep donating. Keep going back to our Black business owners. Keep signing those petitions. Do everything necessary and possible, in your power, to keep supporting Black Lives Matter. Number two, we need to educate ourselves. Education bleeds out ignorance. We need to educate ourselves. We need to know who we’re going to vote for. We need to know who to put in office and who to get out of the police [department.] And a third thing, we need to vote. We need to go and get these people out of office.”
Nolan encouraged fellow athletes and young people not the let the moment settle. He said if they continue to push, change will come.
That sentiment was echoed by Mahri Petree, a freshman on the Bradley Braves women’s basketball team.
“A lot of the things we do in life that are important, the problem is, it stays in today. It doesn’t carry over to tomorrow, and we know over time things lose their power. But this is the power. This is our fuel source — each other,” she told teammates.
Petree said student athletes, as representatives of the Bradley community, have a responsibility to “take the opportunities that this school is going to give us and give it to other people.”
She said they must be relentless in pursuing justice, knowing that the path won’t always be easy.
“I know that sometimes we might get a little scared. We might not know what’s going to happen, but I bet you George Floyd didn’t know what was going to happen. I bet you he didn’t know what was going to happen when he took $20 and tried to flaunt it,” Petree said.
“Even though me putting myself out there may jeopardize my future, that’s me saying that that man that was laying on the ground was no different than I am,” she said. “We are all weighed on the same scale. We are all people.”
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