‘Every team I’ve played on, I’ve been the only African-American player’
Black Sac State student athletes tell their stories
February 25, 2020
Black history is a collection of experiences and moments, many righteous and many infamous, that all equally hold a tremendous impact not only in a context of historical significance, but in the influence of people’s personal lives as well as family ties.
Whether it was the ending of Jim Crow laws in 1965, Ruby Bridges’ first day in one of the first desegregated schools in the history of the United States or the plethora of other events that have taken place in this country’s past, Black history has a unique place in American society.
Black history exists in all aspects of life and culture, whether it’s in a political or social sense — or even both. Black history also ties itself into one of America’s favorite pastimes — sports.
Though more than half of the NFL is Black and a majority of the NBA is made up of Black players, we still have to recognize the experiences and moments that came before the current state in which we live in today.
Bill Russell paved the way for professional Black basketball players to be taken seriously by NBA teams, or Jackie Robinson broke down the racist stigma facing Black baseball players has often been overlooked. All of these stories come with experiences and impact modern culture and society.
In honor of Black History Month, The State Hornet sat down with three Black Sacramento State students to get their view on growing up and developing as athletes.
Brandon Davis, 21. Men’s basketball player majoring in communications.
Brandon Davis describes himself as someone whose identity goes beyond labels.
“I would describe myself as a student athlete, but more than that,” Davis said. “I feel like I’m an open person and family oriented.”
Davis has been playing sports since his youth and said he takes extreme pride in being able to play at the collegiate level as a Black athlete.
“I feel like from any cultural background, being an athlete means something to anybody,” Davis said. “But especially for the Black culture, going to college and playing college basketball is a dream that a lot of people strive for.”
Though Davis ended up pursuing a college basketball career, he said his family always reminded him to try new things when he was growing up, and not become stigmatized by the false narrative that pressures Black and African American men into thinking they can only be basketball players, rappers or other stereotypes of that nature.
“My parents were open to anything,” Davis said. “I actually used to fence at one point. I feel like we have to open that mindset so people know that there’s anything you can do.”
Brandon Davis is a communication studies major and is averaging close to 7 points per game on 39% shooting from the field.
Lewa Day, 18. Softball player majoring in communications.
Lewa Day has been playing softball since the age of 7. She first tried out for soccer and basketball, but both of those trials did not last long.
But in softball, Day found her niche. Her father, who is a former baseball player, supported the idea.
“We’re a big sports family in my house,” Day said. “(We found) a softball sign-up table after my last (soccer) game my dad asked, ‘Do you wanna do that?’ and I said, ‘Sure.’”
According to the 2018 edition of the NCAA Demographics Database, only 5% of collegiate softball players are Black.
Day said that she realized that the demographics in softball don’t really play in her favor.
“When playing softball, you start to notice that it is a white-dominated sport,” Day said. “It’s not something you’re blind to. I definitely gel with everyone on my team, but at the same time you realize there is only one (Black person).”
Day is a communications major at Sac State and through the course of just 14 games, she has 12 RBIs and two home runs, one of which was a grand-slam.
Despite being the only Black player on the Sac State softball team, Day said she still takes pride in the fact that she can serve as a role model to the next generation of Black athletes.
That notion became even more apparent to Day when a faculty member brought their Black daughter to one of her practices.
“My coach was like, ‘That’s who you’re doing it for,’” Day said. “You’re playing this so that little girls like her can say, ‘I can do that too.”
Isaiah Parker, 18. Baseball player majoring in mechanical engineering.
It’s not a secret that Isaiah Parker is the only Black player on the Sac State baseball team.
But Parker said he doesn’t let these contrasting racial dynamics keep him from enjoying his athletic experience, especially since this is something he said he is used to.
“I’m pretty sure every team I’ve played on, I’ve been the only African-American player,” Parker said. “We all crack jokes sometimes, but it’s all good, especially here. Everyone is cool.”
Parker is a freshman on the Sac State baseball team and is majoring in mechanical engineering.
Growing up in Vancouver, Washington, Parker said he was able to develop in an environment that wasn’t filled with heavy sentiments of racism.
Parker said this allowed him to not only thrive as an athlete, but also flourish as a person, due to him not having to face the social pressures that stem from racially motivated dilemmas.
“I’ve been blessed to grow up in a place such as Vancouver, everyone was cool and there was definitely no sense of racism at all,” Parker said.
Parker makes it known that he is not only aware of the shortage of professional Black baseball players in major league baseball, but that he also draws inspiration from the prominent Black players that came before him.
“Those are the guys that paved the way for us to play baseball,” Parker said in reference to the earliest generation of professional Black players. “They’re definitely an inspiration, if it weren’t for them, the league would probably be 100% white.”