Students rally for football players

by Mitch Anderson

Opinions were strong and emotions ran high as more than 60 students, football players and concerned citizens turned out Friday at a rally at Coffman Union to support the three University football players accused of rape.

A wide range of topics was discussed at a public forum held by the Black Student Union, the most prominent being the media’s treatment of the allegations surrounding the three football players.

“This event is not about the guilt or the innocence of the players,” said event organizer and genetics and cell biology junior Wilfried Zehourou. “It’s about fairness and clarity.”

Speakers took turns addressing the crowd for more than an hour on topics that ranged from stereotypes of athletes in the media to how blacks can strengthen their voice in the media.

Self-identified teammates of the accused players spoke, but declined to give their names.

One of the common themes of the rally was how the football players have been ostracized by the University community despite not being charged or convicted of any crime.

“The first thing I saw when I looked at the Daily on that Monday was three black students accused of rape, and it looked as though they were already guilty,” said first-year student Krystal Bradford. “I’m sick of seeing newspapers with our black men as though they’re already guilty.”

Bradford said she was happy with the turnout for the rally, but said she was disappointed it took a negative event to bring everyone together.

Ruth Adu-Gyamfi, an African studies junior, said she felt that all too often the black community is not as supportive of victims of sex crimes as they are of the accused men.

“It’s almost seen as no matter what, our black men always have to be supported,” said Adu-Gyamfi. “It’s almost like if you don’t support them, you’re not part of the group.”

Emma Jo Howitz, a University sophomore, expressed concern over how negative stories play into stereotypes of blacks.

“If (the accused players) get looked down upon, it’s like we all get looked down upon by people who don’t know us,” Howitz said.

Another prominent theme of the rally was how attendees could change the way blacks are portrayed in the media today.

Derrick Biney, a former Daily employee, encouraged black students to use their talents to help influence how blacks are portrayed in the media.

“We’re not in key positions we need to be in,” Biney said. “The problem is we don’t even think we should be in those positions.”

The attendees at the rally also looked for ways to move forward from the incident.

African-American and African studies professor Keith Mayes is dedicating his entire Tuesday lecture to addressing the issue. People at the rally are encouraged to attend.

“I’ll bet there are people in here who have great communication skills and who are able to rally people together for something like this,” Biney said. “Let’s not wait for something else like this to happen again.”