Coach Fortier photo

Women's basketball coach Lisa Fortier addresses fans during the team's 2020 senior night at the McCarthey Center. 

On June 4, the Gonzaga Athletics Department issued a joint statement on behalf of all the head coaches from GU athletic teams addressing the issues of racial injustice and advocating for further change both within the department and beyond to help solve this issue. 

“Both the recent events and the historical inaction in becoming a society that is free of racism, injustice and inequality have been painful and frustrating,” the statement reads, which was initially released on the Gonzaga Athletics twitter page and has been shared by multiple teams and coaches on the social media platform. “As a group, we are pledging to be part of the solution in the way that we lead our teams and represent our University.”

The statement comes following the racially propagated injustices beset upon George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, as well as others in this country. The trend of these injustices which have been brought to the public spotlight has sparked public protests and civil action around the world as people have grouped together to call for social change and institutional amendments. 

The GU athletic coaches have united to announce both their stance of solidarity with the call to action for change and to outline a general plan for how they will proceed in meeting these goals in the future.

“We are committed to working within ourselves, working with our student-athletes and working with our University to take action and influence change beginning now,” the statement reads. “We need to learn, listen and apply ourselves so that we can set the example that our student-athletes desire.”

Prior to the statement’s release, a number of members of the university’s athletic department had published individual messages to voice their personal viewpoints on the issues of racial injustice.

Men’s basketball head coach Mark Few added some words of his own in a statement put out by the team’s Twitter account on June 1. Few said that he is “sickened and appalled” by the recurring instances where racial injustice has impeded on someone’s safety, and acknowledges that historically systemic issues still prevail in modern times. 

“Growing up the son of a minister, and in a Christian family, I was taught and modeled that every person on this earth is equal and should be treated the same no matter their race, color of skin, gender or socioeconomic status,” Few said. “Actions are more important than words. Myself and our program will continue to be an active part of erecting change locally, regionally and nationally.”

Few told Stadium that he will not be running team practices on Nov. 3 for national Election Day, and Few will be educating his players beforehand on the importance of voting to encourage them to cast a ballot. He is endorsing an idea that was proposed by Georgia Tech assistant men’s basketball coach Eric Reveno following George Floyd’s death. Reveno asked the NCAA to make Election Day a mandatory day off of all sports activities for student-athletes.

Gonzaga women’s basketball posted a message on its social media accounts on June 1 stating that people must come together and build a team around one another to support the communities that are suffering from racial injustices. 

“To our family that has made up the past, present and future of this program and to every person living this pain, we use our voice to say: We stand against inequality. We stand against injustice. We stand for human rights. Because black lives matter,” said the team.

This statement comes as the team’s head coach Lisa Fortier has been actively demonstrating her support for the Black Lives Matter movement throughout the past week and a half, having participated in at least two peaceful protests in solidarity with BLM in the Spokane area. 

Mike Roth, GU’s director of athletics  called upon the words of GU Provost and Senior Vice President Deena González in a message released by the Gonzaga Athletics twitter account on May 31. Roth goes on to state that it is time for everyone to commit to a greater cause if change is to be made.

“In view of the horrific events surrounding the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and referencing the words of Provost Deena González in her recent University Message, we must ask ourselves what we are willing to do to be part of the change that is needed in our country,” Roth said. “We are proud of the people — including some of Gonzaga’s own community members — who took part in today’s peaceful protest downtown and stand in solidarity with our students, staff, faculty, friends and neighbors - as well as those hurting across the country.”

Women’s soccer head coach Chris Watkins said that he is proud of the student-athletes who he gets to work with because they are part of the generation that the world will need to listen to going forward for ways to incite reform. 

“I trust this generation of young people to provide the leadership needed for real change,” Watkins said. “They have the desire and energy to build a community and a country where everyone is loved and is safe.”

Asher Ali is a sports editor. Follow him on Twitter: @asher_ali3.

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