Racism in sports has been going on for decades, and the Student Athletes Fighting Racism in Sports (SAFRIS) Club is creating a space for student athletes and people who are interested in the topic to talk about what is on their minds.
The club’s hope is to create a space where people can be heard and where action will be taken if an incident of racism in sports does occur.
After attending the Asking for Courage assemblies, sophomores Jacob Smagula and Jonah Barer decided to take action and do something about the racism they had been seeing in sports. Smagula and Barer recently started the club with the help of their teacher advisor, math teacher and Racial Awareness teacher Hayley Wells.
“We had a really good conversation in our classes after Asking for Courage, and I was trying to encourage people to come up with an action step they wanted to take. For Jacob and Jonah, that was their action step. They asked me and it wasn’t even a question for me to accept,” Wells said.
Smagula said that at the first meeting, the discussion was about sharing stories and describing the steps that could be taken when an incident occurs.
“We shared our stories and talked about how it affected the people who were targeted and who were just watching which is us in our case,” Smagula said. “We want to have a place where students can come in and tell us what happened, and our club will take up the issue with the school.”
Sophomore Lucas Amaral, a club member, described the first meeting.
“We talked about our experiences with racism in sports, what previous experience we had, and how we wanted the further meetings to go. We talked about if we wanted to deal with racism in professional sports or with racism in school sports,” Amaral said.
Wells’s job during a meeting is to help Smagula and Barer facilitate the discussion.
“Jacob and Jonah definitely commanded the room and came up with what they wanted to talk about, but really my main role was if it felt like the questions weren’t landing, I tried to rephrase it,” Wells said. “The idea is that it’s student-led, and I am there for support when needed.”
Sharing stories about racist experiences is important to the club leaders because they are trying to create a space where people can feel supported when exposing themselves and their experiences.
“I hope we can bring awareness to the problems that a lot of the sports teams here at BHS face and along with problems in the real world,” Smagula said. “It’s not just us sharing our stories, but we’re trying to create a place where everyone can come and share their stories with no judgment.”
Barer values the importance of compassion and reassurance during club meetings.
“I felt with each story that was told, a couple more hands went up because people felt more comfortable telling their stories,” Barer said. “I think it’s really important to have a space where people feel comfortable.”
To Amaral, sports without racism would foster equality and a secure space for all who participate.
“I think sports should ideally look like everyone can have an equal opportunity to feel safe competing and not have to worry about feeling uncomfortable,” Amaral said.
Smagula shared this ideal.
“A fair chance for everyone no matter where they come from, socioeconomically or
what they look like, or how they identify,” Smagula said.
Barer described what sports without racism should look like as well.
“No microaggressions, no insults, no slurs,” Barer said.
The club hopes to take action to make a difference.
“I feel coaches should be more aware in general, not any coach or any specific sport, but should just be more aware of how racism impacts players,” Smagula said.
Even though what has happened in the past cannot be fixed, Smagula and Barer are determined to offer a place of support for people who do experience racism in sports.
“The things that have already happened to us in the past. Sadly it’s too late to go back and try to fix what happened there,” Smagula said. “So all we can do is offer reassurance that in the future we are going to be there.”