LAWRENCE, Kan. — In the span of 24 hours, the University of Kansas women’s basketball team envisioned, organized and led an on-campus march, echoing other protests from players in the NBA and WNBA.
About 200 students and student-athletes walked as a part of the Friday march, which was advertised on social media as a Black Lives Matter event.
Athletes from other sports also marched, but it was the KU women’s basketball team that coordinated the protest. They canceled a recent practice to plan it.
Team members said they know what they are doing: leveraging the power and interest that comes with the mention of anything KU basketball related.
Junior guard Erica Haynes-Oberton said her 15 teammates agreed they had to do something after a Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, seven times in the back.
“We actually had like a little meeting yesterday and really had a chance to like vent, and one of my teammates had an experience that I didn’t even know about. And it’s just sad to hear that,” Hayner-Oberton said.
“There’s a lot of discomfort to be focused on playing basketball as a Black woman or a black man in times like this. And we just felt the need to have a discussion,” redshirt freshman Chandler Prater said.
Prater said it frankly feels awkward to play sports when videos of police shootings like Blake’s spread online.
“Jacob Blake, he feels like my uncle. This is the most connected I’ve felt to any of the victims thus far,” Prater said.
“I always feel like it could be my father or my brother or the men that’s in my life,” Hayner-Oberton said. “It’s sad to see that it’s still going on today.”
“The platform that we have, we have a big platform, and it was easy for us to use it here,” she continued. “We have the right support — the coaching staff and the administration.”
Not only were the players a part of the protest but also the KU women’s basketball coach as well as the university’s athletic’s director.