This past week was the NCAA’s Diversity and Inclusion week, and members of Lafayette’s varsity sports teams participated through responding to various prompts on social media about how they incorporate those themes into their lives and teams.
“Lafayette’s participation in the NCAA Diversity and Inclusion Week was a great opportunity for Lafayette Athletics to celebrate the diversity and inclusion efforts on our campus but to also be a part of the national campaign to create a dialogue on the benefits of inclusive environments to the student-athlete experience,” Athletic Director Sherryta Freeman wrote in an email. “I have received positive feedback from friends and colleagues on Lafayette’s participation in the social media campaign. Our student-athletes were also excited to participate.”
Lafayette has also recently stepped up its diversity and inclusion initiative through its Athlete Ally club. The club’s mission is to end homophobia and transphobia in sports and to activate the college community to champion LGBTQ+ equality.
Lafayette’s chapter of the Athlete Ally program is already making a strong impact on athletes and teams, even though the club is relatively new. The program has been around at Lafayette for many years, but became an official club at Lafayette in January of 2019.
One major event for the club are Athlete Ally games. These games are sponsored by various varsity sports teams and each player on the team wears something to support the cause, like an LGBTQ+ ribbon or temporary tattoo.
“The presence of Athlete Ally at our athletic events has been phenomenal,” Freeman wrote. “Athlete Ally has done a great job coordinating with our teams to bring awareness to LGBTQ+ issues and to demonstrate support for a welcoming and inclusive environment.”
The Athlete Ally club is already making a strong impact on Lafayette’s campus, and it only has plans to grow in the coming months and years. While the club is testing the waters this semester, they plan on holding a panel of former college athletes who will share their experiences as LGBTQ+ athletes at Lafayette next semester.
“One of the objectives of the five-year athletics strategic plan is to strengthen efforts related to diversity and inclusion and the initiatives of Athlete Ally directly aligns with it,” said Freeman. “At the core of our department is respect and appreciation for the diversity within it. We value our differences and celebrate our ability to bring people together through sport.”
One of the driving forces behind Athlete Ally’s successes is athlete involvement. Representatives from various teams are in the club and provide each program with a voice. One major project the club is undertaking is becoming Safe Zone trained, which will provide each club member with the tools needed to provide a safe space in their team’s locker room. As a whole, this will be a major step for the varsity teams at Lafayette and for the campus community as a whole as it works to become more inclusive.
While Athlete Ally has gained momentum moving forward in its implementation on campus, one of their biggest setbacks has getting involvement from the broader, non-athlete community.
“Increasing recognition and getting more involvement has been our biggest challenge so far,” said board member and senior volleyball player Julia Howard. “We are asking more from all our athletes and requiring involvement from each team. Getting advertising at games has been a challenge but has definitely helped our cause.”