Power is not meant to be grasped with a clenched fist … power is meant to be treated generously so that we can thoughtfully empower each other to thrive in our communities … which advocates our humanness before our ambitions.
UConn Husky and Minnesota Lynx legend Maya Moore uttered the words above in the moving speech she gave when she received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award on Saturday night ESPYs Ceremony.
“Power is not meant to be seized with a clenched fist, … power is meant to be treated generously so that we can thoughtfully empower each other to thrive in our communities, … that advocates our humanity. for our ambitions. ” –@MooreMaya pic.twitter.com/NcLo4VdfPh
– ESPN (@espn) 11 July 2021
In the same ceremony, another UConn Husky, who happens to be a Minnesota resident, presented a model of what Moore described. Paige Bueckers, who received the award for best college athlete (women’s sport), used her platform to share her power. She did not ‘seize’ an award that was a product of her ambitions, but empowered others ‘generously’ by emphasizing the importance of black women for women’s basketball in her acceptance speech.
With the light I now have as a white woman leading a sport under black leadership and celebrating here, I want to shed a light on black women. They do not get the media coverage they deserve. They have given so much to the sport, the community and society as a whole and their value is unmistakable.
Paige Bueckers #ESPYAwards address
“I want to shed light on black women. They are not getting the media coverage they deserve. They have given so much to the sport, the community and society as a whole and their value is unmistakable.”pic.twitter.com/4PCWTyxYKM
– Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) 11 July 2021
Bueckers then went further and called on sports media, where ESPN, the organizer of the ESPYs, is the main power player and therefore the main culprit, for the inadequate reinforcement of black athletes and their achievements. She said:
Sports media holds the key to storylines. Sports media and sponsors tell us who was valuable, and you told the world that I matter today, and thank you to everyone who voted. But I think we should use this power together to celebrate black women as well.
That’s why Bueckers’ speech resounded.
The shortcomings of white allyhip
In recent years, the sports world has declared its commitment to the elimination of black and black voices. However, it was difficult to realize this attitude, especially in a sports culture that has long instinctively favored white athletes and their achievements. The privilege of white athletes was particularly striking in women’s basketball, as the black women of the WNBA were at the forefront of athletic activism regarding issues of racial justice and equity.
Like Jemele Hill wrote on Instagram in response to Bueckers’ speech:
A major problem in basketball for women at the college and pro level is the lack of recognition and support for black women who run the sport. Paige understands the game within the game.
Or it often seems that white athletes have separated their moments of alliance and advocacy from their moments of ambition and achievement. In general, white female basketball players have shown that they are eager allies, and especially use their social media platforms to advocate for racial justice and give recognition to the work of black women. This allyship with a lower interest is important.
However, as their interests increase, the ambition tends to trump comfort. White women continued to accept, without protest, an excessive amount of the (still too little) media coverage and (still too few) endorsements awarded to women’s basketball, preferring not to use their privilege to support media organizations or challenge corporations to also dedicate their representative and / or financial resources to black women.
While out of the world of women’s basketball, the situation where Rachel Nichols of ESPN is involved illustrates the limitations of white allyhip. Although Nichols regularly used her television program “The Jump” to highlight the NBA’s initiatives in the field of racial justice, her support for racial equity ceased when it had to relinquish its power to provide an opportunity for her ESPN colleague Maria Taylor. Nichols, to borrow Moore’s words again, ‘seized’ her power ‘with a folded fist’ and advocated ‘her own’ ambitions’ instead of ‘thoughtfully empowered'[ing]Taylor.
Bueckers did the opposite.
The positive response to her speech, especially from black women, points to the ways in which many white women athletes, as well as other white women in the sports space, do not fully take into account their white privilege, and the (many) privileges Come along.
Just saw Paige’s speech and wow …..
It was unexpected
– Devereaux * comfortable fan * Peters (@ MsPeters14) 11 July 2021
Can the media center white athletes?
In a conversation to ESPYs with The undefeatedBueckers shared the origins of her speech:
Over the past few years, I’ve just gotten a lot of media attention and a lot of it has focused on me and other white athletes, and I just want to use my platform to share the light and .. expand the horizon about who gets the attention, who follows social media.
Not so surprisingly, is that one of the unintended consequences of Bueckers’ speech was to pay more attention to her and her white alliance, instead of, as she intended, paying more attention to black women. This cycle – where white athletes who give space to black athletes receive credit and coverage for their choices – is further proof of how strongly centered white athletes are in sports media.
With the implementation of the NCAA’s New NIL Policy, this attention economy is even more precious to the athlete of the university. Quite possibly, Bueckers’ speech inspired a number of companies to consider investing in her. If these companies actually listened to her words – not just captivated by the young, young woman who speaks the words – contact their black athletes about empowerment opportunities. They can start with the black women who are Bueckers’ teammates at UConn: Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Christyn Williams, Evina Westbrook, Aubrey Griffin, Aaliyah Edwards, Mir McLean, Piath Gabriel, Azzi Fudd and Amari DeBerry.
Then there are the Black women who are members of national champion Stanford Cardinal: Anna Wilson, Haley Jones, Fran Belibi and Agnes Emma-Nnopu. Two other teams are expected to compete for the national title in 2022 – South Carolina and Maryland – has a number of talented black women ballers. There is the emerging junior trio of among others Aliyah Boston, Brea Beal and Zia Cooke for Gamecocks. The title of the Terrapins is like Ashley Owusu, Diamond Miller and Angel Reese. Elsewhere in the country, there are Rhyne Howard in Kentucky, NaLyssa Smith in Baylor and Naz Hillmon in Michigan.
These names are just the tip of the iceberg. The sport of women’s college basketball is full of wonderful, engaging, electrifying and elegant young black women who deserve the spotlight, and any monetary opportunities that come with it.
Paige gets ‘it’. Will the media and sponsors also get “it”?