Alum contributes to discussion about racism in Whitman Athletics Department

Tucker Grinnan, Sports Reporter

For the duration of 2016-2017 season, Cherokee Washington, then a senior on the women’s volleyball team, protested against police violence and racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem at home games.

At the time, Washington was the only BIPOC athlete on the team. Inspired by other BIPOC sports figures like Colin Kaepernick and ally Megan Rapinoe, as well as the political and social upheaval in the United States, Washington remembers feeling a calling to play a part in something bigger than herself.

Washington recalls most of the Whitman community being supportive of her actions, including members of the women’s soccer team kneeling at their games in solidarity.

Naomi Lee, then a senior on the women’s soccer team, recalls Washington playing a vital role in her choice to demonstrate.

“We heard that she was the only one kneeling, and that’s really brave,” Lee said. “We wanted to show support, even if we couldn’t be on the court with her.”

However, not everyone was on board with Washington’s actions. She remembers the head coach of the volleyball team actively resisting her attempts to promote change, going as far as to ban athletes from protesting the next season.

“I shared my points, and in my opinion, and that was it,” Washington said. “We didn’t really have a conversation about police brutality and me being the only Black person on the team at the time, and what that meant for me, and safety, all these things we could have talked about, it was a missed opportunity.”

Washington attributes this silence to a lack of cultural competency, both in the volleyball coaching staff and throughout the athletic department.

“Coaches have to be aware of the culturally specific needs of different athletes, whether that is an athlete who is differently abled, or an athlete from a different country,” Washington said. “[Coaches] have to be culturally competent in this particular moment in our history, you can’t get away with it anymore.”

A more in-depth account of Washington’s experience will be made available in the next episode of the student-run podcast “Whitman So White.”

Washington got in touch with “Whitman So White” through social media, explained co-host of the podcast Jasmine Razeghi. Razeghi encourages others to feel comfortable reaching out in a similar fashion.

“I’d like people to feel free to tag us [on social media],” Razeghi said. “We will repost and support whoever is going through whatever.”

The podcast episode titled, “Dear PWI: A Whitman Athletic Experience,” is set to be released on Monday, Feb. 22.