Mizzou Tweet on Diversity Goes Wrong, So Very Wrong

Oct 24, 2019 at 9:53 am
click to enlarge Oh, oh no. - SCREENSHOT VIA TWITTER
Oh, oh no.

On Wednesday afternoon, the University of Missouri of Athletics Department attempted to celebrate, by way of tweet, the diverse backgrounds and talents of its student athletes. Specifically, how they are "more than a student athlete."

A laudable idea! The only problem was, well, everything else about the now-deleted tweet:

The tweet featured the beaming images of four Mizzou athletes sorted into boxes, with each proudly facing the camera behind a line of text that someone clearly didn't think about long enough before hitting publish.

That's because there seems to be a clear difference in the messages displayed between white and black student athletes. There was gymnast Chelsey Christensen — "I am a future doctor" — and swimmer/diver CJ Kovac — "I am a future corporate financer." Opposite them were two black student athletes, whose texts did not include the word "future" or even mention their areas of study. Instead, runner Arielle Mack is shown stating only, "I am an African American woman."

Similarly, Chad Jones-Hicks — who appears to not be a student athlete, but rather a "Ticket Office Assistant" according to Mizzou's website — is shown stating only, "I value equality."

Not to put too fine a point on it, but what the fuck, Mizzou!? Especially for a university where the subjects of campus racism and the role of black student athletes collided just a few years ago, in 2015, when a series of protests and boycotts led to the resignation of the university system president. It was a pretty big deal at the time.

Anyway. Mizzou's social media effort — part of a larger #NCAAInclusion campaign — also included stand-alone tweets featuring the individual student athletes, including Caulin Graves, who, like the two other black people featured, seemed to exist only as a diversity checkbox. Graves' banner said, "I am a brother."

Hours after posting the tweet, the Mizzou Athletics deleted it, and later posted an apology along with a video showing more athletes making their own "I am..." statements.

To its credit, Mizzou Athletics acknowledged that it had messed up.

"Earlier we made a mistake when we posted a graphic about our student athletes," it tweeted. "We apologize. Our intent was to provide personal information about our students, but we failed. We listened and removed the post."

However, the video Mizzou posted along with the apology only raised more questions about the "mistake," as it features two of the black athletes included in the tweets, Arielle Mack and Caulin Graves. The video indicated that the statements featured in the deleted tweet had actually been lifted, out of context, from statements given by the athletes themselves.

In the video, Mack indeed says, "I am an African American woman," but that's not the end of her line. She continues, "... a sister, a daughter and a future physical therapist."

Graves, too, didn't just say he was "a brother." His full quote was "I am a brother, uncle and best of all, I am a leader."

This contrast — and the apparent intentional selection that took place in editing the black athletes' statements in the deleted tweet — did not go unnoticed.

Not a great look, Mizzou.

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at [email protected]
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