USOPC condemns systemic inequality, sets athlete town hall

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The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee will hold an athlete town hall on Friday, CEO Sarah Hirshland said in a letter to Team USA athletes, condemning “systemic inequality that disproportionately impacts Black Americans in the United States.”

The town hall will be a forum for athletes to discuss how they’ve been impacted personally, to listen, to learn and to support each other, Hirshland wrote in a letter sent Monday night. This conversation will be facilitated by athletes and available to athletes.

“We are reading and hearing the messages you, and so many citizens of this nation, are sharing and we understand you are struggling with anger, frustration and uncertainty,” Hirshland wrote. “As Team USA athletes, you represent a total diversity of race, gender, geography and perspective. You, and all you represent, continue to be a powerful force for good.”

Many national governing bodies made statements condemning racism and seeking change, including those for major Summer Olympic sports of gymnastics, swimming and track and field.

“We can see that apathy and indifference are not solutions,” Hirshland wrote. “The USOPC stands with those who demand equality and we want to work in pursuit of that goal. We must do everything in our power to ensure equality promised is equality achieved. We are committed to providing opportunities for our community to engage, to learn, and connect to resources for them to become advocates and take action.”

The full text of the letter:

Dear Team USA athletes –
Like so many of you, I have watched the events of the past week unfold with a deep sense of despair and helplessness – questioning what I can do, what we in the Olympic and Paralympic community can do, and what all of us in our local communities can do, to bring forth honest conversation and enact necessary change.
We absolutely condemn the systemic inequality that disproportionately impacts Black Americans in the United States. It has no place in ours or any other community. It is clear there are no forces as ugly, damaging and demeaning as racism and marginalization practiced by some of those in positions of authority. It played out in Minneapolis in the most tragic and unconscionable way imaginable. It is being felt intensely across the United States day after day.
We are reading and hearing the messages you, and so many citizens of this nation, are sharing and we understand you are struggling with anger, frustration and uncertainty.
As Team USA athletes, you represent a total diversity of race, gender, geography and perspective. You, and all you represent, continue to be a powerful force for good.
In this moment, when you might otherwise be training and competing together, many of you are still isolated at home. Conversations had on the track or pool deck, or in social settings, aren’t happening as they would normally, and this only adds to the frustration.
We’ve heard directly from you how important community and comradery are to Team USA athletes. That’s why, on Friday we will convene and support an athlete town hall where you can openly discuss how you have been impacted personally, listen to each other, learn from each other, and support each other. This conversation will be facilitated by athletes and available to athletes. Registration information will be sent soon. This discussion cannot resolve these issues but it is essential to progress.
We can see that apathy and indifference are not solutions. The USOPC stands with those who demand equality and we want to work in pursuit of that goal. We must do everything in our power to ensure equality promised is equality achieved. We are committed to providing opportunities for our community to engage, to learn, and connect to resources for them to become advocates and take action.
We’ve long celebrated the great power of sport as a way to unify nations and people in conflict. Today, and as we go forward, we believe unity among teammates, friends and colleagues can start to help heal our own.
Sarah Hirshland
CEO, U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee

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