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UCI Athletes Stress the Importance of Inclusivity and Voting in the Anteater Voices for Change Initiative

The UCI Athletics Department contributed to its ongoing commitment for racial justice, equality and inclusion through the Anteaters Voices for Change (AVC) initiative and other social media campaigns. Through these campaigns, student-athletes shared their thoughts and hopes for change leading up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election. 

The AVC initiative began this past June as a way for the UCI Athletics Department to publicize their stance in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In the form of blog posts, UCI student-athletes expressed how they have been personally affected by the movement and what they will do to ensure inclusivity and the end of racial injustice. This initiative became a platform for student-athletes to speak out against systemic racism. For some, it was a place to share how racial injustice has impacted their personal lives.

“To see how our voices are continuously blocked out and ignored is hard to understand … As an athlete, I do believe that athletes around the world should use their platforms to make people more aware of this movement … A change needs to be made but it won’t be made with words only,” Alexus Seaton, a member of the UCI Women’s Basketball team, said.

The AVC continues to share anecdotes from UCI student-athletes as a reminder of their stance against racism. 

“I will stand with the Black Lives Matter movement until there is permanent change in the way we treat one another as people. This is a movement, not a moment,” Kyle Tsu from the UCI Men’s Track and Field team said. 

From Oct. 27 to Oct. 29, UCI Athletics took part in the NCAA Diversity and Inclusion week to show the importance of inclusive environments in college sports. This social media campaign covered different themes for each day. 

Day 1’s theme was “My Story Matters” and focused on the personal identities of student-athletes, their perspectives and their experiences. For Day 2, “I’ve Got Your Back”  promoted support for teammates to foster the growth inclusive environments. For Day 3, the theme “Together We Rise” showcased collaborative efforts across the UCI campus to rise together and continue to spread the values of diversity and inclusivity. 

As the NCAA Diversity and Inclusion Week concluded, UCI Athletics shifted their attention to calling on UCI students to vote in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

In celebration of National Vote Early Day, the UCI Athletics Instagram page (@uciathletics) posted a video compilation of several student-athletes explaining the importance of voting. 

“It’s a right that many generations of Americans have struggled to win, but now I have the privilege to vote and use my voice on issues that concern myself and others,” Victoria Baker, a member of the UCI Women’s Basketball team, said in the video.

For many student-athletes, this year was their first opportunity to vote in a major election carrying major implications due to the pandemic and racial justice movements. 

“This is one of the most crucial and important elections of our lifetime,” Ali Amari, a member of the UCI Men’s Tennis team, said.

Lindsey Ona, a member of the UCI Women’s Track and Field team, described feeling “compelled” to vote, and said, “I want to use my privilege to represent the voices unheard.”

The student-athletes expressed that they recognize voting does not only exist as a civic duty but also as a catalyst for change. 

“Change is only possible if action is being taken. Our job as individuals in today’s society is to be that change,” Flora Amiri said in a UCI Athletics Instagram post

Photo provided by UCI Athletics

Through the AVC initiative, the NCAA’s Diversity and Inclusion Social Media Campaign Week, and the effort to increase voter participation, UCI student-athletes were able to have their voices heard.

“When we find the power to use our voice, we need to understand that it’s extremely important we use our platform and give back to the people,” Melodie Kapinga from the UCI Women’s Basketball team said. 

Gina Johnson is a Sports Intern for the 2020 Fall Quarter. She can be reached at ginaj@uci.edu.