Michigan’s branch of Big Ten anti-racism group focuses on voter registration and education before election
The Big Ten Anti-Hate and Anti-Racism Coalition is just over three months old, and though still in its beginning stages, its purpose of fighting hate is becoming realized.
Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren announced the coalition’s formation back in June after the death of George Floyd.
“The goal of the Coalition is to seek tangible ways to actively and constructively combat racism and hate around the world while also empowering student-athletes to express their rights to free speech and peaceful protest,” a press release from the Big Ten said in June.
While a broadly defined goal, the coalition — comprised of student-athletes, coaches and athletic department faculty — has already begun to show signs of progress and success.
“A big effort has been on voter registration and making sure people are informed voters,” Michigan football player and member of the coalition Hunter Reynolds said. “We’re in an election year this year, a pivotal election year. (Our goal is) making sure every athlete across every school in the conference is registered to vote. Making sure that everyone understands the voting process and what they have to go through, whether it’s actually going to a physical location or submitting an absentee ballot.”
Michigan soccer coach Chaka Daley doubled down on the coalition’s focus on voting — also tied to the Big Ten’s voter registration committee — citing it as one of the “tangible” results spoken of in the statement about the goal of the coalition. The coalition’s strategy in implementing those results has been through teaching and accessibility of registration.
“We’ve gone with the educational piece,” Daley said about Michigan’s focus within the coalition. “... I think at this point the tangible pieces from our perspective are starting to educate the masses, and that’s as tangible as the beginning gets.”
That education starts with members of the coalition. Each school has its own group of people — there’s no set number — working toward the goals of the coalition on their respective campus. Michigan’s group is composed of four student-athletes including Reynolds, five coaches such as Daley, Kim Barnes Arico, Jim Harbaugh and Juwan Howard, athletic director Warde Manuel, University president Mark Schlissel and four other University faculty members. Each school’s group was chosen from volunteers as well as those who were asked to volunteer.
To start to educate its members, the coalition has groups from Big Ten schools meet with each other over Zoom and share experiences. Topics regarding racism, hate and other related issues are discussed to help with broader understanding.
“I think (it’s important) just sharing the perspectives of the people that are on it and recognizing that everyone comes from different backgrounds and sometimes your experiences might not reflect on someone else’s experiences,” Reynolds said. “So just really stressing to people that while you might have positive encounters in certain aspects of your life, other people might see it as a negative and just really being open to seeing other sides of things.”
Though sharing may seem simple, it can have a positive effect on some.
“Obviously, it starts with every coach and how every coach approaches their group or their team,” Daley said. “So for me it’s not something too dissimilar from what I’ve already begun in my (team),. … But I think for others it has (been different), so I think (the coalition’s policy has) been a great tangible piece of education that made people stand up, think and look.”
For the future, both Daley and Reynolds say there is no defined “roadmap” of sorts to rigidly structure the direction of the coalition. It’s more about educating in response to what’s happening in the world around athletics.
But at least until Nov. 3 that remains the election.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.
For a weekly roundup of the best stories from The Michigan Daily, sign up for our newsletter here.