Canisius’ SAAC shows solidarity for the Black Lives Matter Movement

The Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) is working with athletics to distribute solidarity shirts to teams to encourage conversations and involvement in relation to the Black Lives Matter Movement.

SAAC eboard members featured are Turner Dirrigl, Cat Gallagher, Libby Benzer, Sydney Livermore and Matthew Genaway. President Lexi Agee is not pictured. (Tessa Pszonak)

The Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) alongside the athletic department have been working in conjunction with the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s (MAAC) United for Justice Campaign to show solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Initially the campaign was established by various basketball coaches and is now a movement recognized by all sports teams in MAAC, which includes Canisius. To take part in this campaign, Canisius’ athletics and SAAC have been spreading awareness about the Black Lives Matter movement through solidarity shirts, events and educational programming.

“Change comes from a movement that involves an entire collective group working towards common goals and desires, not a single moment in time,” MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor said in a statement originally featured on MAAC’s website. “A groundwork for change has been established in the MAAC, it is up to all of us involved to ensure systemic racism, violence and oppression are brought to the forefronts of minds in our communities and that awareness is raised to bring the change we want to see in our society.”

Currently, the athletics department and Canisius’ sports teams are working together to create solidarity shirts. Teams will wear these shirts as warm up gear or to games and so on.

Student athletes will wear these solidarity shirts to show their support for the Black Lives Matter Movement. (Lisa Liotta)

 All of the shirts for each team will look the same on the front with white lettering on a black tee-shirt and then on the back it is up for the team to collectively decide what to feature. On the front there will be a griffin and the letters AMDG, which stands for Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam. This is a Jesuit value that when translated means for the greater glory of God.

The athletic department, SAAC and the Director of Mission and Identify Father Jack Mattimore collaborated together to create these shirts.

Associate Director of Athletics and Senior Woman Administrator Lisa Liotta said she wanted the teams to choose what to put on the back of the shirts because it initiates this conversation and encourages members of the team to further think how they become more educated and invovled. 

“We pledge to provide a campus environment that can assist in bringing change to our community by capitalizing our differences,” SAAC’s Social Justice Mission Statement noted. “As a campus leader we will focus on ending racism, discrimination and oppression.”

Liotta said student athletes have a platform and this is a way for their voices to be heard, while also showing solidarity and spreading awareness about this social justice movement.

In addition to these symbols of solidarity, courtesy of the MAAC uniform passes will be distributed. Currently, SAAC is also planning on hosting a Unity Walk hosted in the beginning of December. 

“We have to be okay having uncomfortable conversations,” Liotta said. “We have to be comfortable being uncomfortable and we have to do it in a respectful manner for everybody.”

Student athletes are not the only ones having these conversations as the coaching staff at Canisius has joined in as well. 

Canisius’ coaching staff have been working with the Institute for Sport and Social Justice. The coaching staff is completing various sessions in which they discuss how to show support for students, while also learning more about the movement itself.

More specifically, they have discussed or are going to discuss in future sessions how to become an ally, unconscious bias, equality versus equity and so on. Liotta said they are about halfway through these sessions.

“I’m hoping that’s what comes out of it and we can as a campus come together to really live out our Jesuit values of being men and women for and with others and having equitable opportunities for all on our campus, and I think that’s our ultimate goal here,” Liotta said. “This is just another educational opportunity to show and bring people up to speed on what it’s like for others.”

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