TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The open dialogue surrounding racial injustice across this country continues today. The University of Arizona Athletic Department, alongside student-athletes, has a new program that focuses on one idea: they’re stronger together.
“This is an ongoing thing," said Sam Thomas, a University of Women’s Basketball player. "It’s not just big in this moment, or this month, and this year.”
Thomas says the “Stronger Together” program is about creating an environment for wildcat athletes to speak openly and safely about the issue of race.
“It is stronger together. It’s what we are supporting as Arizona athletics,” said Thomas. “It’s kind of a way to have a safe space where if you’re having an issue, you don’t have to feel scared.
The athletic department says the program is centered on the ideas of solidarity, empowerment and equality.
“Our entire athletics department is committed to promoting equality, continuing conversations and open dialogues as well as amplifying student-athlete voices when it comes to social injustice in our nation," said Dave Heeke, The University of Arizona’s Athletic Director. "
“It’s important to know that the University of Arizona is going to keep supporting us for years on and on and on," said Thomas,
Thomas says she’s never experienced bullying because of her race, but she still has to think twice about things others may not have thought of.
“If I’m going to a store, I feel people looking at me differently," said Thomas. "I know I have to be on a little bit better behavior, don’t touch things and then touch your pockets, because you never know what’s going to happen.”
Thomas says she has talked to other Pac-12 athletes about “Stronger Together” and similar initiatives on their campuses.
“You would never think you would talk to someone from ASU, they’re our rivals," said Thomas. "But, it’s bigger than basketball. It’s bigger than your enemy. It’s bigger than competition. This is a worldwide thing.”