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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim, Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

‘Blackout’ at men’s basketball home opener promotes inclusion and diversity

Approximately 400 students packed Hagan Arena for the men’s basketball home opener. PHOTOS: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

Just over 24 hours after approximately 1,800 members of the university community filled Michael J. Hagan ’85 Arena for a University Forum on diversity, inclusion and equity, St. Joe’s students donned black shirts to promote unity during the men’s basketball home opener on Nov. 5.

St. Joe’s defeated Bradley University in a close contest, 86-81. As the clock wound down, the roughly 400 students filling the stands stomped and chanted in unison, “The Hawk Will Never Die.” 

University Student Senate (USS), the Black Student Union, 54th Airborne and SJU Athletics coordinated the “blackout” in the wake of recent racial bias incidents on campus.

During a timeout, Director of Athletics Jill Bodensteiner, J.D., acknowledged the student section’s statement, gesturing between her black sweater and the crowd.

“I love that it was student driven,” Bodensteiner said. “It shows there are a lot of great people here at St. Joe’s and we’re not going to let those who are not in the same mindset rule the day.”

George Frattara ’20, honors chair for USS, said holding the blackout during the first basketball game is a way to reach the students who may not have attended the forum on Nov. 4.

“Athletics is a good way to connect with the community,” Frattara said. “Basketball is obviously something students are really interested in. It’s a way to connect with a broader spectrum of people in the community at St. Joe’s and hopefully to send a message to students who may not be so concerned with the issue.”

Hawk cheerleaders and the first 100 fans in the student section wore shirts designed and handed out by the athletic department that read “Hawks Fly Together.” For 54th Airborne President Sam Robinson ’20, the statement rings true. 

“We want [the student section] to be an inclusive place for all students, whether it be based off of color, whether you like to be loud or be quiet in these games,” Robinson said. “Overall, I want it to be a fun and inclusive atmosphere, so I thought this was very important.”

Billy Legg 20 wears a “Hawks Fly Together” t-shirt.

When asked for comment at the game, University President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D. deferred to the student section, saying he supports anything students do to support diversity. 

Samira Toure ’23, who participated in the blackout, said basketball games are where the university community gathers, making it a good setting to continue conversations about race on campus.

“Since recent incidents, it’s really important that we are standing out and protesting against the racism that’s been happening,” Toure said. “Not only are we voicing that we have to stop this, but also representing that we’re actually serious about this change.”

Following his first official game and win as head coach, Billy Lange acknowledged the student section’s call for unity.

“The cause is love, right? The cause is respect,” Lange said. “I’m happy for our team because we are a high profile team and we are a very diverse team, both in race and geography. For our guys to sit and talk about that without me asking them to do that shows the type of character these guys have.”

The game’s leading scorer with 26 points, redshirt junior guard Ryan Daly denounced recent incidents of racial bias, calling them “unacceptable.”

“I think we all agree we shouldn’t tolerate that here, you know one big family,” Daly said. “To see [the student section] rocking those shirts, it was good to see. Our team, we addressed the issue, we talked about it and we are going to be proactive to prevent that from happening ever again.” 

Sam Britt ’20 contributed to this story.


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