KCCI sports anchor Elgin Rucker virtually met with six student-athletes from all four Division I universities in Iowa (Drake, Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa) to discuss their experiences and opinions on racism at the collegiate level.
The discussion on Thursday is a segment titled "Project CommUNITY: Racism in Sports."
The six student-athletes talked about microaggressions they've experienced as people of color, racial stereotypes, the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and how a culture shift could occur within college sports.
One of the six speakers was Iowa State wrestler David Carr, who spoke about how some teammates have responded to issues that have continued to be after the deaths of Arbery, Floyd and Taylor.
"For my team, some people, but not all, have shown that it has affected them or even reached out to me," Carr said. "I think one or two of my teammates have asked about it or talked to me about this. That's the problem, you should want to talk about it...I believe my job is to educate them, try to have more conversations, have a meeting with the team and try to talk about it."
Carr said some friends haven't seen how this has affected him personally and they "should want to learn about and talk about it because he's their friend and that 'you shouldn't like me because I'm good at wrestling, but rather because of who I am.'"
Carr also brought up a microaggression he has heard when some announcers describe Black athletes.
He said the way some of the announcers describe Black athletes highlight "natural talent" as opposed to skills and technique.
"For sports like wrestling, the way the announcers describe Black athletes, versus how they describe other athletes, as 'he's explosive, he's naturally talented or he's made in a lab,'" Carr said. "They are compliments, but instead of just saying he's naturally talented — it's skills and techniques, stuff you have practiced over and over. It's not just, 'I'm Black so I can do this a certain way.'"
Thursday's feature also included a prerecorded statement from former Iowa State men's basketball and current member of the NBA's Utah Jazz, Georges Niang.
Niang advocated for understanding and respect for all individuals.
"You can love the similarities between two people, but you also have to respect the differences, respect them as a human being and above all, race, gender, ethnicity, we are humans," Niang said. "We are more the same than you think, to not respect the difference between you and someone else and you can't even respect their skin color, that's atrocious and I think there's no room from it. There is no room for racism in this world."
Drake football player Cross Robinson also spoke Thursday about his team's response to the deaths because of police brutality, specifically Arbery, Floyd and Taylor's in recent months.
"I'm frustrated with a number of my teammates," Robinson said. "I feel like its personally unacceptable, just because you can see it everywhere because of social media. Now in a time where people like me need your support, you are silent. That leaves a bad taste in my mouth."
Northern Iowa swimmer Natalie Nelson said some of her teammates have posted things in support of their feelings on what is going on in the world but won't have conversations about it.
"I'm frustrated with some people on my team posting something on social media to be supportive but then will talk about it and when I walk in the room they won't say a word and it's super awkward," Nelson said. "It frustrates me cause you should be able to talk to me cause you're my teammate and we talk about everything."
Iowa volleyball player Gabrielle Orr discussed how she's scared to get pulled over by the police.
Orr said she had been at protests in Iowa City, but was very nervous headed into them.
Drake women's basketball player Kierra Collier stated she is scared to go to any protests.
Collier said she "is tired of having to explain to people what it is like to be Black" and there are enough resources out there "for people to go out and educate themselves.
"If you don't go make the choice to educate yourself, then we won't get anywhere, because you're going to be ignorant to what is going on," Collier said.
Northern Iowa football player Alfonzo Lambert concurred with Collier's statement saying "I don't want to feel like I have to force you to learn something that you don't even care about."
Lambert said people need to learn about that and it is not his job to teach other people in that regard.
He also said funding and opportunities for historically Black universities needs to come from the top and not because of athletes.
"These historically Black colleges are underfunded and don't have the resources to bring in top athletes," Lambert said. "If you can't start there, how are your going to get anywhere?"
Despite his belief, he says it will still be on the athletes to provide for the historically Black universities.
When asked by Rucker, "Do you feel like the progress being made for athletes, by athletes to get to a point where your voices are being heard is making a difference and how can we build from here?"
Orr said there has been, especially as Iowa football players spoke about negative experiences with former strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.
Orr said there had been some terrible things she had seen on social media, but she also saw a lot of Iowa fans post great things on the issue and this gives her hope for things to get better for athletes of color but that it'll take time.
Collier, who is the only Black person on the Drake women's basketball team, said her team is talking about what they've learned about this with each other and that it is "a big step."
This is just some of the 50-minute discussion Rucker had with these six athletes where he talked about his experiences growing up as a Black man and asks the six student-athletes their thoughts about racism in sports.
The full discussion can be found here.