“We Have to Fix This”

“We have to fix this.” That was Anita DeFrantz’s statement to me during the first few weeks of my joining USRowing in September, and the message was very clear.

Today marks the beginning of Black History Month, providing us a great opportunity to recognize the African-American athletes that have represented the United States at the Olympics. This list includes:

  • Anita DeFrantz (1976 and 1980 Olympics)
  • Patricia Spratlen (1980 and 1984 Olympics)
  • Aquil Abdullah (2004 Olympics)
  • David Banks (2008 and 2012 Olympics)
  • Alex Osborne (2012 Olympics)

While these athletes achieved the ultimate goal of making the Olympic team, they also represent the only African-Americans to have competed for the United States at the pinnacle of our sport since rowing was introduced at the Olympic Games in 1900. This needs to change.

Black History Month gives the rowing community an opportunity to reflect on our lack of diversity and to focus on pushing our sport forward, so that it reflects our society as a whole.  

Collectively, we need to challenge the perceptions of our sport and to reach out to communities that traditionally do not view rowing as a viable option. We can learn from the success of programs such as Baltimore Rowing Club’s Reach High Baltimore, Row New York, Community Rowing’s Row Boston, Chicago Training Center, Row LA, and Philadelphia City Rowing, just to name a few.

USRowing is committed to broadening the appeal of our sport and to addressing the challenges that limit the participation of our sport within the African-American community.

We will focus our internal resources towards addressing these challenges, and we will highlight those programs that support these goals and celebrate their successes.

This will be an ongoing process, and we welcome your comments, members@usrowing.org.

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