The University of Missouri Athletics Department tried to celebrate the diversity of their athletes via a tweet and it backfired big time.
The tweet showed the images of four Mizzou athletes sorted into boxes and smiling. Each person faced the camera behind a line of text that showed stark differences between the white athletes and the Black athletes. For example, gymnast Chelsey Christensen had “I am a future doctor” in front of her picture while swimmer CJ Kovac had “I am a future corporate financer.” Both of these athletes are white. Meanwhile, opposite them, the Black student athletes had text that didn’t mention their studies. Instead, runner Arielle Mack had the text “I am an African American woman” in front of her. Another Black student, Chad Jones-Hicks, had the statement “I value equality” in front of him.
The whole campaign also featured individual tweets that featured individual athletes, and even these tweets were problematic, according to Riverfront Times. For example, another Black student, Caulin Graves, had the text in front of him “I am a brother,” instead of listing his career goals.
Not too long after posting the tweets, Mizzou Athletics deleted them, and later tweeted an apology along with a clip showing more athletes making “I am…” statements.
“Earlier we made a mistake when we posted a graphic about our student athletes,” they wrote in the tweet. “We apologize. Our intent was to provide personal information about our students, but we failed. We listened and removed the post. This video better represents our intent to celebrate our diversity.”
Despite the apology, the video sent a glaring message on what the athletic institution decided to leave out in their tweets. With the video, Black athletes were allowed to have career dreams. For example, Black students can be heard saying “I am a journalist student,” or “I am an electrical engineer,” or “I am a computer science major.”
One woman, who appears to be Arielle Mack, even expanded on the text in her tweet reading “I am an African American woman.” In the video she says, “I am an African American woman, a sister, a daughter, a volunteer and a future physical therapist.” The fact that all these things were dwindled down to “African American woman” in the tweet speaks volumes, considering the white athletes were able to keep their career goals in tweets. Clearly, the Black athletes’ statements were lifted out of context for a reason. Even Graves didn’t just stop at “I am a brother.” In the video, he continued, “I am a brother, uncle and best of all, I am a leader.”
Do better Mizzou.