KU women’s basketball team leads Black Lives Matter march across campus

Members of the University of Kansas women's basketball team Friday led a Black Lives Matter march across campus to draw attention to pervasive racism and inequality. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
Members of the University of Kansas women's basketball team Friday led a Black Lives Matter march across campus to draw attention to pervasive racism and inequality. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

LAWRENCE — Hundreds of students, sports fans, activists and officials at the University of Kansas marched Friday across campus to Memorial Stadium to register alarm at violence aimed at Blacks and to motivate more people to work against racism and inequality.

The KU women’s basketball team organized the gathering that attracted athletes and coaches from multiple sports, including football coach Les Miles and assistant women’s basketball coach Damitria Buchanan. It was attended by KU’s athletic director Jeff Long and chancellor Doug Girod.

They throng marched from a student housing complex on the south side of campus to the football stadium’s 50-yard line on the north side of university property.

A long line of people marched at the University of Kansas to register frustration with pervasive racism and the indifference of some people to issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
A long line of people marched at the University of Kansas to register frustration with pervasive racism and the indifference of some people to issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Basketball player Emma Merriweather, of Buena Park, Calif., said the march reflected a belief among her teammates that people in the university community should be part of the national conversation about social justice.

It would be unacceptable, she said, to pretend as if Black Lives Matter wasn’t happening. She said the march could be viewed as a response to people who think athletes need to “shut up and dribble.”

“This is a movement, not a moment,” said senior basketball player Bailey Helgren, of Edina, Minnesota. “Everyone has a voice and a platform that needs to be used on a daily basis. All lives cannot matter until Black lives matter.”

Niccolly Ramalho, who played basketball at KU and is from Sao Paulo, Brazil, offered a prayer that sought comfort for those in anguish and to deliver inspiration for people to live in harmony.

Long, the university’s athletic director, said he was proud women in the basketball program had the courage and initiative to take action with a march. He said the peaceful event was “powerful.”

In response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the KU football team’s unity council issued a statement declaring the “brutal and inhumane shooting of Jacob Blake was yet another example of discrimination by rogue members of the modern-day police force.”

The women's basketball team at the University of Kansas organized a Black Lives Matter march across campus that brought hundreds of people together to oppose racism. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
The women’s basketball team at the University of Kansas organized a Black Lives Matter march across campus that brought hundreds of people together to oppose racism. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Since the Aug. 23 shooting of the Black man by police, the city has been the site of rallies and marches, clashes with law enforcement, property damage and a fatal shooting of two protesters by an Illinois teenager.

The KU football team’s council of more than a dozen people said in the statement “enough is enough” and “systematic racism and inequality towards minorities” required meaningful change so future generations of people of color don’t have to live in fear.

Miles, the KU football coach, said the Blake shooting made clear “we have to change” as a country.

“We once again find ourselves at a crossroads,” he said, “and action must be taken to peacefully protest these reoccurring hate crimes on Black men and women.”