For decades, professional American athletes have taken political stances and spoken out against the injustices committed by the United States government. Most recently, Colin Kaepernick, a professional football player, sparked a player movement during the 2016 NFL season to protest against protest police brutality and the unjust treatment of African-Americans in the United States. Along with Kaepernick, many other professional athletes opted to kneel instead of standing as a form of protest. However, this movement has undoubtedly created a ripple effect across the nation. Although dozens of social media outlets and magazines have covered the movement, it has been the tweets and comments of President Donald Trump denouncing the political stance of professional athletes that have garnered the most attention.

President Trump tweets on September 23rd, 2017

During a rally in Huntsville, Alabama, President Trump urged the attendees of NFL games to walk out of the stadium if players kneeled during the national anthem. It was the comments and tweets, like the one shown above, by President Trump that urged me to investigate the nature of sports and politics. Specifically, as a collegiate student-athlete, I wanted to look back at the times in my life when sport and democracy intertwined. Moreover, The Era Of The Student Athlete is a story about how my experiences with school choice, the founding fathers, and seeing professional athletes protest the national anthem have all shaped my understanding of the relationship that exist between sports and democracy in America.


I was once asked, what was the greatest lesson I had learned from being a student athlete? My response was "to always believe that anything is possible. There are days that are tougher and more demanding than others, but those are also the most rewarding days in your life when you look back on it. So it has been an important lesson for me to remind myself and others to always believe that anything is possible."

Looking back on it, the response I gave was as raw and honest as could be. There is truly a stark reality for most student-athletes who, like myself, split their time between being full-time students and full-time athletes.

Along with the pressure to win every match is the pressure to pass every math test. Not only must you excel in the classroom as an academic, but it is expected of you, as an athlete to spend countless hours working on your craft in individual workout sessions, showing up to practices, and watching film.

Undeniably, the lifestyle of a student-athlete is demanding and time consuming. However, when you account for the rigorous recruiting process athletes undergo along with their decision to play a certain schools, one can begin to see that the institutions, and the environments surrounding student-athletes are also highly politicized.

When it comes to recruiting, most college coaches are allowed to build cases on student-athletes as early as the 7th grade, which means that college coaches can begin recruiting 13 year olds who, in most cases, have not played at the high school yet. Although college coaches are limited to the amount of times they may contact a student-athlete during their amateur careers by the NCAA, the decision making process is documented and highly publicized by major sport and newspaper networks.

In the 8th grade, I was one of the only female-students in my class who began receiving interest from college coaches. At the time, being recruited so early in my basketball career definitely felt like a great achievement, but as I got older I began to spend more time thinking about the pros and cons of early my recruitment.

By the time I became a collegiate student-athlete I'd ask often ask myself who benefited from this process and how could I tell? More importantly, how did the founding fathers, school choice, and professional athletes taking a knee all shape my understanding of the relationship that exist between sports and politics.


George Washington Thomas Jefferson Alexander HAMILTON JAMES MADISON benjamin franklin jOHN ADAMS john jay

FACT: By the age of 6, the United States Government requires all children to be enrolled in compulsory school and shall remain enrolled until the age of 16.

I was born in Queens, NYC and when I turned 4 my mother moved to a town called Flushing. By the time I turned 6 years old my mother enrolled me into an elementary school up the road from our house. The picture you see to the right is my elementary school.

I attended P.S. 22 from grades K-6 and never realized, until I was much older, that the name on my school was not P.S.22 but the "Thomas Jefferson School". I had always referred to my elementary school as P.S. 22 because thats how everyone in New York City would reference their school.

Student-Athlete age 10

I remember, vividly, how shocked I was to learn that I attended the Thomas Jefferson School and not just "P.S.22". I raced home that day and asked my mother who Thomas Jefferson was and she simply replied "one of the U.S. presidents". That was her answer and she left it at that. I wasn't satisfied with the answer and I wanted to know more so I went to the internet and typed in his name. I learned quickly that Thomas Jefferson was a founding father of the U.S.A; he wrote the declaration of independence; and he died on July 4th.

These facts about Thomas Jefferson resonated with me forever because it brings to memory the day I actually realized democracy and politics were always around in a symbolic form. Whether it was the name on a jersey or the name on the school building, democracy, symbolically, found its way into the room.


When I was younger I loved basketball and I loved school. Both were just as equally important in my world but pursuing a good education meant spending a lot of money on tuition costs. Since my mother couldn't afford to pay tuition, I understood that if I wanted to pursue a great education through high school and college, I would have to do it through basketball.

After graduating from P.S. 22, I attended a catholic school in East Elmhurst, New York City. During my time at St. Gabe's, my catholic school, I continued playing basketball and was lucky enough to receive a basketball scholarship to attend a private catholic high school.

In 2009, I accepted a basketball scholarship to play at Christ The King Regional High School. Receiving a scholarship to attend CTK was both an honor and a privilege. Many great male and female professional basketball athletes such as Sue Bird, Lamar Odom, and Chamique Holdsclaw all played and graduated from CTK.

I attended CTK for three years as the starting point guard on the Women's basketball team. My time on the team was great until my junior year. Ultimately, my college recruiting process began to ramp up and I felt like being at Christ The King didn't academically prepare to excel in the classroom at the next level.

I wanted to leave Christ The King, but I knew it wasn't going to be easy. In the basketball world, the move was too political. Sports journalist began to reach out and interrogate me about the move. I was 16 at the time and wasn't sure how to make sense of it all so I consulted my mother and we spoke for hours about my recruiting process.

In 2012, I decided to take the move and leave Christ The King. I felt like this was a way of me exercising my right to school choice. Both my mother and I had agreed that I needed better preparation in the classroom to excel at the higher level and taking the move to The Lawrenceville School would help me do that.

The move to Lawrenceville was tough. I left Christ The King the summer before my senior year and was making the decision to leave everything I had in New York City behind. Once I got there, I felt like I had made the wrong decision.

Nothing came easy at The Lawrenceville School. The school work was harder, I had new teammates, I didn't want to make new friends, and living at school was still a weird concept.

But I had to stick through the challenge. I knew I couldn't let my mother down. Going back home wasn't an option so I did my best and to stuck it through the first year. Eventually, I made a lot of new friends and started to enjoy learning again. I was taking classes that interested me and playing basketball wasn't my only priority so it felt good to be able to just play basketball again.

My senior year came and it was time to make a decision on college. I was being heavily recruited by division 1 schools but my heart wasn't set on just playing basketball in college. I wanted to pursue a better education than the one I received at Lawrenceville while having the opportunity to play basketball competitively as well.

In 2014 I graduated from Lawrenceville and committed to play basketball at Williams College. As the first in my family to graduate high school and attend college, committing to Williams was the biggest achievement of my life. I was proud to say I broke the cycle in my family and I knew it wouldn't have been possible without exercising my right to school choice.

Moreover, in 2017 the term "school choice" has frequently been used by politicians and critics of the Trump administration in a different context than I have been using it. Traditionally, school choice has been regarded as a means to financially assist students with specific educational needs and interests through a state-funded voucher program.

2017 American Federation for Children National Policy Summit

I learned more about the "school choice" initiative during my visit to the 2017 American Federation for Children National Policy Summit. During my time there, I had the opportunity to also meet with U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos to learn more about the initiative she and her peers have endorsed.

I truly began to learn about school choice and the proposed policies around it when I was personally asked my members of at the American Federation for Children to share my educational journey at their 2017 National Policy Summit.

The story I shared was personal but it highlighted the importance of basketball in my journey. Without being recruited to play basketball in college and without receiving basketball scholarships to attend high school I would have not been able to exercise my right to school choice. More importantly, my educational needs would have never been met and pursuing a high education would have never became a reality for me.

Protesting the national anthem
U.S. Women's Soccer- Megan Rapinoe Kneels
WNBA - Indiana Fever Team Members
MLB - Oakland Athletic's Bruce Maxwell Kneels

Colin Kaepernick sparked a player movement that has lasted over a year and has only begun to gain momentum. Most recently, players in the WNBA, MLB, and U.S. Soccer teams have all taken a knee during the national anthem. But what does it mean when professional athletes protest the national anthem in 2017?

According to tweets by President Trump, protesting the national anthem means disrespecting our nations veterans and calls for termination of ones professional contract. However, the controversial responses made by individuals like President Trump against professional athletes have also made me question the nature of our democracy today as it relates to sports. Moreover, I would argue that the responses made by President Trump reflect the notion that sports and politics have always intersected and will continue to intersect so long as professional athletes feel it is their duty to stand up on behalf of the those in our nations who are being oppressed.

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