By Danielle Chaloux
The athletes at UConn, especially basketball and football players, can be obvious, and the stereotypes and assumptions that they face force these individuals into a one dimensional character. As sophomore communications student and defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi put it, mainstream students make a snap judgement.
“A lot of people when they see us, automatically, is just oh, he’s here for his sport. There’s no sort of intelligence there whatsoever,” Fatukasi said.
Thursday evening’s panel discussion, entitled “Behind the Face Masks: The Voices of Black and Latino Male Student-Athletes” worked to disprove the “dumb jock” stereotype.
Panel moderator Dr. Joseph Cooper from the Neag School of Education asked the panelists to paint a picture of an average day, to show what really goes on behind the perceptions.
Junior political science student and UConn safety Jordan Floyd obliged, detailing a typical offseason day, that started at 5 a.m., and continued all the way to midnight.
Even this hectic schedule doesn’t paint the whole picture. During the season, athletes often have to travel to games. Gus Cruz, a recent graduate with a degree in psychology and sociology and an offensive lineman explained, “a Thursday night game, down in Florida, and you get back at 3 a.m., and your adrenaline is up, so you don’t get to bed until 5 a.m., only to get up at 7 a.m. to go to class.”
Angelo Pruitt, a recent graduate with a degree in economics and a defensive lineman, further elaborated, “I don’t have the energy to explain why I’m tired. I’m so tired I can’t tell you why I’m tired. I have arguments where people say ‘Well, my feet hurt,’ and I’ll ask what made their feet hurt, and they say ‘well, I walked to class.’ And I walked to class, and then I ran to practice, and then I ran through practice, and then I ran to the dining hall because I have five minutes to eat.”
The panelists had stories to share about experiences that tested their patience, when they’ve been boxed into the dumb jock stigma, and how they have to be very conscious of their involvement in the classroom.
Fatukasi was enrolled in a discussion based Women and Gender Studies class, and was confused when his advisor called him into a meeting. The advisor cautioned him to watch what he was saying in class, to make sure it wasn’t misconstrued by coming from a “large, black man.”
Floyd had a similar story about how he has to be careful when responding to comments from so-called normal students, who assume that a class will be easy when they see a group of athletes in it. Floyd, and other athletes, have to take a deep breath before reacting to these observations, to avoid an escalating situation.
“I can’t sit there and yell at the girl, or the guy who made the observation, because then it turns into a harassment case, and assault case, because it’s some big, black ball player yelling in the classroom,” he said.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway was best put by Marquise Vann, a senior linebacker in the individualized major program studying Urban Youth Development and Health.
“We can be very articulate, we can understand, we can critically think, we can analyze, along with any student in the university,” he said.