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Letter from the Haverford Athletes of Color Coalition to Wendy Smith

Editor’s note: All opinion pieces published in the Clerk represent only the views and ideas of the author. This letter was originally posted by the Haverford AOCC on their social media. Director of Athletics Wendy Smith’s statement, and her subsequent apology, can be found here.

Dear Wendy Smith,

As the newly formed coalition of Haverford Athletes of Color, we write to you, in response to the statement and apology you issued this past week, on behalf of the Haverford Athletic Community.

We were disappointed, but unsurprised at your vague, indifferent statement. It fell short in addressing the injustices that have plagued the Black community for centuries in a timely and appropriate manner. Quite frankly, this is a difficult time for many that are struggling with the emotional, social, and economic consequences due to COVID-19. On top of this, Black students at Haverford are overwhelmed with emotional trauma due to the violent lynching of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, James Scurlock, Manuel Ellis, and so many other Black individuals lost in the name of violent policing and white supremacy.

In response to our nation’s greatest sin of racism and oppression re-entering the national spotlight, many Haverford student-athletes of color are protesting and raising awareness; yet your response was too little, too late. You were timely in your posting about Commencement, encouraging the celebration of the Class of 2020, but waited a week to address the continued murder of unarmed Black folx, failing to stand behind Black student-athletes and their families. Postponing a difficult and necessary conversation does not justify your silence and lackadaisical response. When you eventually addressed the matter the first time around, you were dismissive of the Black Lives Matter movement. Was it too political? You never mentioned Black people, let alone Black student-athletes at Haverford. Your words lacked substance. Stating that the Haverford student-athlete community is “stronger together” and will “fight as one team,” was ignorant. Candidly, you gaslit Black student-athletes who are subject to an oppressive system in which remedy is neither simple, nor near. In order to successfully advocate for Black student-athletes, one must also advocate for all the Black lives that have been – and continue to be – extinguished by the fatal arithmetic of white violence.

Your inability to issue a timely and appropriate statement, even after consulting with some of your colleagues, is a mere symptom of the sustained disregard for POC athletes, and especially Black athletes. Although we recognize that you have issued an apology, we will not simply accept it, nor will we comfortably move towards a place of healing until you commit to enacting institutional change. Considering this commitment to change, we urge you to examine how you have disregarded POC athletes, especially Black athletes, throughout your time as Athletic Director.

We propose that you commit to: *this list is non-exhaustive*

  1. Adopting policies that require the recruitment of POC athletes.
  2. Remodeling your hiring requirements for Athletic Department staff to better reflect the demographics of the Haverford Community, while holding current and future staff accountable for abusive and racist practices.
  3. Revisiting your Student-Athlete Advisory Committee selection process.
  4. Considering how homogenous racial and socio-economic demographics of the student-athlete population fuels our athlete non-athlete divide.

We encourage you to actively reflect on all that has been said and take action for the justice, equality, and basic human rights of your Black student-athletes and all other members of the Black community. The road towards anti-racism cannot be paved merely with press releases, nor can it be founded in the self-satisfaction of doing the bare minimum. Rather, it must be pursued through conscious actions on the part of the Athletic Department and all of its members. The Haverford Athletic Department’s platform must be utilized to join the efforts to break the cycle of systematic racism.

Ultimately, this letter is not only a condemnation of your recent responses; it is the culmination of all of the years in which the voices of Black and non-Black POC athletes were unheard and unconsidered. Students have waited far too long for your professed values of inclusivity and diversity to manifest as reality.

With broken trust, much concern, but obtainable respect,

The Haverford Athletes of Color Coalition:

Varsity Baseball, Men’s Varsity Basketball, Women’s Varsity Basketball, Club Crew, Varsity Cricket, Men’s Varsity Fencing, Women’s Varsity Fencing, Varsity Field Hockey, Men’s Club Frisbee (by proxy), Womxn’s Club Frisbee, Varsity Men’s Lacrosse, Varsity Women’s Lacrosse (by proxy), Club Rugby, Varsity Softball, Men’s Varsity Soccer, Women’s Varsity Soccer, Men’s Varsity Squash, Women’s Varsity Squash, Men’s Varsity Tennis, Women’s Varsity Tennis, Women’s XC/Varsity Track and Field, Men’s XC/Varsity Track and Field, Volleyball 

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