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Wisconsin student-athletes organize united rally for diversity on campus

Wisconsin Athletics announced a new athletic plan for racial equality following Unity March
Published: Sep. 4, 2020 at 10:33 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Normally dressed in crimson and white, around 200 University of Wisconsin athletes wore all black on Friday for a Unity Rally for Diversity march from Camp Randall Stadium to Bascom Hall.

The rally was organized by former Badgers men’s basketball player, Samad Qawi and current Badgers track and field athlete, Armoni Brown along with a few other basketball and football players.

It wasn’t just players marching and shouting chants of unity, change and being one team, but coaches as well including head football coach, Paul Chryst.

The march consisted of around 200 athletes, coaches, administrators and regular students to give a voice to the university’s Black students who make up less than 2% of the student body.

“This is bigger than any athletics, bigger than any basketball any football bigger than any sport this school endorses,” Qawi said.

Qawi said it was powerful to them to see the rally and it shows there can be more progress made from incoming students or just students there now.

While Badger stadiums and arenas remain quiet this fall, Wisconsin students are still making their voices heard. Brown said it isn’t just student-athletes who think diversity is an issue on campus, the coaches believe it too.

“I think sometimes people forget before I am a student-athlete, I am a Black person,” Brown said. “Like when people see me they don’t see me as a student-athlete. They see the color of my skin.”

Armoni Brown has been a leader for all students on UW’s campus fighting for racial equality. Back in June, she along with a few other student-athletes pushed for a black ’W’ to be featured on the university crest on their uniforms.

Wisconsin athletics approved the black ’W’ on July 15 to show solidarity with Black and other underrepresented communities.

Then on August 3rd, Brown requested UW-Madison and UW Athletics create a $2 million annual fund that would provide scholarships for students of color who qualify to attend UW-Madison but financially cannot afford to attend. The creation of the fund would rapidly increase of numbers of diverse student enrollment, while removing barriers of entry for student of color, Brown stated on twitter.

Follwing the ending of the march on Friday, UW Athletics unveiled a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategic plan that is set to focus on three priorities.

They include a framework to facilitate a diverse culture, programming and support for diversity-related efforts and diversity and inclusion risk management.

Associate Athletic Director of Inclusion, Engagement and Development, Mike Jackson said this plan was a long time coming.

“We don’t rush to judgement and rush to recommendations. While we are committed to helping improve diversity on campus, we want to make sure we put the right resources to those efforts.”

“I can’t say that we’ve landed on $2 million being a solution but we’re going to continue to pour resources into this effort and I think what you’re going to see is we land in a place that’s well beyond the $2 million that the students have requested.”

“You’re seeing a demonstration of solidarity across the university that we’ve never seen before,” Jackson said. “I think that you’re going to see action come as a result.”

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