BANGOR – The conversations about race relations have bled in to the sports world for many years, and again this week athletes are speaking out.
Stick to sports. It is an edict long used to keep politics and social issues separate from athletics. When white athletes, coaches, and administrators choose to stay silent on issues involving minority groups, their teammates of color take notice. “You never know until tough times comes and I need support from my white friends, what are they saying during these times? Are they tweeting? Are they posting? Or, are they remaining silent? Because if you’re remaining silent it means you’re okay with what’s going on,” said former UMaine defensive back Jeff DeVaughn.
Across the sports landscape, athletes are choosing to use their platform to show solidarity with the African-American community in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Former UMaine football captain Jeff DeVaughan says seeing white athletes like Carson Wentz and Joe Burrow speak up during times of racial unrest can go far in getting the attention of those outside minority communities. “We need white athletes to set up, honestly. You look at LeBron James, you look at Colin Kaepernick, people like that, their voices only go so far, it’s not helping honestly, they say it, but it’s still not getting us over the hump that we need,” said DeVaughn.
Team sports are built on trust; an underlying confidence and bond with your teammate to do their job right. Black athletes hearing from the white people they play with can help build a bond for the real world. “Adversity in a football game, when times do get tough, who’s behind me? Who can I trust? Is this guy right here with me? In the real world, when it really matters the most and it’s not a game [any] more its my life, I want to know if you’re there with me,” said DeVaughn.
DeVaughn recently finished a masters degree program focusing on diversity and inclusion in higher education at UMaine. He’s hoping he can be the next in a new line of black athletic directors, helping to guide policies that help athletes of color. “Having people in higher positions like that, head coach, or a [general manager], or owner, you have someone that’s relatable that you can really go to and speak on these topics where you feel like yes you understand me, you’re going through the same thing so how are we going to deal with this together?,” said DeVaughn.