K-State athletes, coaches stand up for change amid Black Lives Matter protests

(Illustration by Julie Freijat | Collegian Media Group)

Like generations of athletes before them, some Kansas State athletes are using their positions of prominence to take a stance for social change. Beyond Manhattan, they have their sights set on taking part in the growing Black Lives Matter movement.

“I love to feel like I’m more than just an athlete,” women’s basketball junior guard Christianna Carr said. “When I step on the court, I’m more than just somebody that plays for K-State, I’m more than just a person behind a number, I’m more than just a black student athlete.”

After George Floyd was killed by ex-Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day, protests sprung up across the United States. Now halfway through June, these protests continue as people ask for police reform.

Growing up in the Minneapolis area, Carr was heartbroken when she saw the video of Floyd’s death just outside of Cup Foods, a store Carr frequented while living in the area.

“That could have been me, that could have been my brother, that could have been my dad, anybody,” Carr said. “That’s what hurt me the most, that could’ve been somebody that I knew.”

Days later Carr was protesting outside the statehouse in Topeka. While reluctant to speak out at first, Carr soon found herself in the middle of the protest, leading chants.

“I decided since I can yell loud on a basketball court I might as well use it for something else too,” Carr said. “So I started chanting and people started following along and that’s where I really felt like I found my voice.”

Carr was not the only K-State athlete using their platform to speak out. Senior running back Harry Trotter, alongside senior defensive backs AJ Parker and Jonathan Alexander, joined the protests in Manhattan on June 2.

“I’ve had so many African American friends and I’ve been so tied in with them, it really made me feel for them,” Trotter said. “I thought that it was important to go and support them and just let them know that no matter what, I am on their side and I am fighting for them.”

As student athletes have used their platforms to speak out, some coaches have done the same.

Football head coach Chris Klieman and women’s basketball head coach Jeff Mittie have made statements on Twitter regarding the situation.

Mittie said he has been “proud and strengthened by our student athletes at K-State.”

Klieman said he wants “all of our players, and our black athletes in particular, to know we are here for them and we are here to listen and help.”

“[The coaching staff] said that they support us in everything that we do and say, and I think that was important for us to hear,” Trotter said. “We have such a supportive coaching staff, guys that are always behind us 100%.”

Athletes have used social media to speak out on the issue, with one particular post going viral. Carr wanted to make sure her voice was truly heard.

On June 4, Carr stated on Twitter, “If you don’t support me with this … then don’t support me with that … simple,” along with two pictures, one of her protesting in Topeka, while the one next to it is an action shot of Carr during a women’s basketball game.

This tweet garnered national attention, currently sitting at over 7,000 likes and over 1,000 retweets, as well as getting support from the NCAA Women’s Basketball Twitter account. With the attention, Carr received both positive and negative reactions to the tweet.

“I felt supported by so many people here at K-State that I didn’t even know I had their support,” Carr said. “It also kind of hurt me a little bit just to see how many people are just very small-minded about things. I got threats in my DM’s, I got threats on Instagram, and there were people saying that they don’t even know who I am.”

Her response to the hate?

Simple, those that viewed the tweet know who she is now, and hopefully, she said, she might help them change their mind on the subject matter.

“The biggest thing to take away from this is having people understand that there are problems outside of just basketball in this small little world in manhattan, that things are going on and things are getting real,” Carr said. “You need to focus on things outside of sports, you need to care outside of sports too.”

Cameron Bradley
Hey! I’m Cameron Bradley and I am the sports editor for the Collegian! I am a junior from Wichita, Kansas, and I am majoring in journalism. When I’m not working for the Collegian, I’m creating content and putting on broadcasts with K-StateHD.TV. I am also currently a member of the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity. I love sports, spending time with friends, family and doing everything that I do for the glory of God!