PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — It’s been said, sports is a great melting pot.
On many days, athletic fields, locker rooms and sidelines are integrated. That’s why area coaches and athletes hope sports can be at the forefront of racial change.
They say it starts with dialogue.
“It’s OK that it’s uncomfortable for people to talk about this topic,” said former Richwoods basketball stand out Camryn Taylor. “But I think it’s time for people to talk about these topics because of the situation and racism in America and how it is deeply rooted. It’s there.”
Taylor says she’s already had conversations with her Marquette University basketball teammates. And local coaches are having those conversations, too.
They say dealing with the raw emotions of events like the protests following George Floyd’s death is a lot like a game plan. It starts with talk and moves to action.
“If you’re going to make change, you’ve got to be committed. You have to be committed to that change, on top of that you’ve gotta take action,” said Illinois Central College basketball coach Tony Wysinger. “It may not be convenient or comfortble but if you’re going to make change, those are some of the things you’ve got to do.”
At Peoria High School, football coach Tim Thornton says he’s had conversations about race and relations with police for years. Last fall his Lions hosted a game with the Peoria police Department.
Officers were invited the the game and police cars were positioned behind the end zones. After Peoria High scoring plays, the lights and sirens on the squad cars went off.
“I think that was an important first step,” said Thornton. ” We’re asking about things we already do, what can we do better? How do we become more of the solution and less wondering about the problem.”
Coaches, athletes and officials in athletic departments are all asking those questions as they try and used sports to make the world better.
“You have an opportunity because you have a voice,” said Wysinger. “You have a voice that is resounds with your athletics, your community. You find out there’s a lot more to people than you think when you talk to them about things you typically don’t talk about. If you just talk about sports, you may not be able to open your eyes.”