When the Georgetown men’s basketball team takes the court against No. 10 Kansas on Wednesday at Verizon Center, in a nationally televised, sold-out, primetime showdown, it has an opportunity to do more than just win a game.

It has the opportunity to make a statement about the recent non-indictments of Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown and of the police officers in the choking death of Eric Garner. The players and coaches have the opportunity to contribute to the much-needed discussion about the racism and police brutality that plague our society. They have the opportunity to make a difference.

But will they take it?

Head Coach John Thompson III left open the possibility.

“We’ll see,” he said after Sunday’s win over Towson at Verizon Center on the possibility of Georgetown making some sort of statement.

Following the killings of Brown and Garner, protests have erupted in cities and campuses all over the country, including here at Georgetown.

On Friday night, a group of Georgetown students staged a “die-in” at the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Dahlgren Quad, briefly disrupting the traditional lighting of the tree, singing of carols and sipping of hot cocoa. The students lay on the ground with signs bearing the words “Black Lives Matter” and chanting “No justice, no tree” to show solidarity with Brown, Garner and all those protesting in their names. Most people in attendance were supportive of the protest. Some were not.

I could write until my fingers fall off about senselessness of the killings of Brown and Garner. I could tap away at my keyboard for hours about the failures of our country’s justice system. I could talk at length about my anger over the fact that some people at Georgetown cared more about a disruption at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony than the repeated, unwarranted killing of black men.

I can, and do, recognize the injustice inherent in all of this. But, as a white female, I never will be able to truly understand what it feels like to be considered suspect based on how I look, or to be followed in stores — an experience familiar even to our president — because of the color of my skin.

Many people on the Georgetown basketball team and staff, however, probably can relate to this, and therefore, any statement from them, verbal or visual, would carry the weight of authenticity.

On Sunday, Nov. 30, five players on the St. Louis Rams ran onto the field with their hands in the air, adopting the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture to show solidarity with Brown.

Last season, the Miami Heat posed for a photo in hoodies to show solidarity with Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teen shot in Florida in 2012.

Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls wore a shirt in warm ups on Saturday night that read, “I Can’t Breathe,” the words spoken by Garner as he was choked to death on the sidewalk.

And last Wednesday night, students at Maryland staged a protest before the Virginia vs. Maryland basketball game. Participating in the protest was Maryland wide receiver Deon Long, holding a sign that read, “Are we still ‘thugs’ when you pay to watch us play sports?”

No high-profile college team has made a collective statement about these issues, though. On Wednesday night, Georgetown, a Jesuit institution that professes to encourage students to be “men and women for others,” has a chance to do just that.

I’m not presuming to know the players’ and coaches’ opinions on these multifaceted topics, and I haven’t been privy to whatever discussions they may or may not have had on these issues. But I do know that they have a unique opportunity to use their status to make a statement.

Georgetown basketball players are some of the most recognized people on campus. Thompson has a higher profile than most professors. The team is admired by students and idolized by fans. The players attend one of the most prestigious schools in the country, in one of the most powerful, politically relevant cities in the world. The team plays its home games minutes from the White House. Because of who they are and what they do, the Georgetown men’s basketball team has a great power to command attention. And you know what they say comes with great power.

The team is focused on the game. The players are dialed in, thinking about the opposing team. And such a statement would not necessarily be a slam-dunk from a public relations standpoint. The Georgetown basketball program wants to avoid distractions, play basketball and win.

But, in the end, if we fail to realize that some things are bigger than basketball, we all lose.

Laura Wagner is a senior in the College. 

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2 Comments

  1. Kit Marlowe says:

    “I never will be able to truly understand what it feels like to be considered suspect based on how I look, or to be followed in stores — an experience familiar even to our president — because of the color of my skin.” Please explain what this has to do with the tragic deaths of Brown and Garner.

    • Victoria Sledge says:

      Her entire statement shows that she is sympathetic to the hardships black men face in this country due to prejudices and stereotypes even though she herself, as a white female has never endured them. That’s why she mentioned being followed in stores and being considered a suspect.

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