COLUMBIA, Mo. — Former Missouri and current Baylor women’s basketball star Aijha Blackwell gave some reasons for why she left the Tigers.
“I honestly I just think it was time. I think it was really time to move on with my career,” Blackwell said on a Twitter Space Tuesday night.
“I got tired of certain stuff going on within that program so I decided to move forward with my life.”
Blackwell said she originally went to Mizzou because her father, Ernest Blackwell attended the university. He was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs as a running back in 1998 but was cut in the preseason. He died in 2004.
The second team All-SEC selection continued and said it was ‘very frustrating being a Black athlete at Mizzou.
“I know a lot of my fellow black athletes feel that way.”
“We had to be on the hush about a lot of stuff.”
A lot of stuff included silencing players on Black Lives Matter protests surrounding the death of George Floyd.
Missouri has had problems with racism against Black students and student athletes on campus for almost a decade; most notably the on-campus protests in 2015 where the football team threatened to sit out a game in support of a student’s hunger strike.
“They tried to say we couldn’t say Black Lives Matter on the front of our shirt like we had to get on the back. Females [sic] which wearing ponytails that covered the back of our shirts so you either got that on the back or you had to get ‘Mizzou for Change’ instead of Black Lives Matter.”
Blackwell also said Missouri women’s basketball head coach Robin Pingeton listened to the players and Blackwell felt like Pingeton supported the players. Blackwell thought the silencing orders came from above Pingeton but said she isn’t sure who wanted the players to not speak out.
The senior out of Berkeley, Mo. recalled Mizzou Arena (the home of men’s and women’s basketball games) being a voting location but Mizzou athletes couldn’t wear any BLM paraphernalia because it was considered political.
Black Lives Matter apparel has been considered acceptable at polling locations because it does not endorse a specific political candidate or political issue.
“It was really weird,” Blackwell said about the situation.
But the silencing of protests wasn’t Blackwell’s main reason for transferring. She said it was divisiveness within the team that was based on race as well that made being in Columbia very uncomfortable.
“I feel like that just needs to be the main focus, basketball, going on and off the court and I just felt like I couldn’t do that no more where I was.”
“I just want to hoop and win with people who want to do the same thing, on the same page and it got to a point where it wasn’t there.
“I don’t need to be focused on white people on the team black like? No, that’s just not it. We all need to hoop.”
Baylor is different according to Blackwell because there is a lot of personalities on the team that is allowed to be themselves in head coach Nicki Collen’s program.
“Nobody’s put into a corner and saying ‘stay there’; you can be yourself.
“With all these different personalities and different ethnicities, we can cherish that and it could be something special but at Baylor, I feel that.”
Blackwell was one of four women who transferred from the program, three of whom are Black. She said on their way out, they told Mizzou’s basketball operations administration about their issues with the program.
“We just gave her insight on what we thought could be better what we thought worked out well.”
Missouri lost to Baylor early in the 2021-22 season and it remains to be seen whether they will play again in the 2022-23 season.