KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — University of Tennessee students, athletes and faculty gathered on campus to use their voices to bring awareness to an issue plaguing the country. This march was spearheaded by UT athletes, who wanted to use their platform for change.
The march started at the torch bearer statue, with nearly one thousand people showing up. Protesters marched to Ayres Hall where speeches were given. Some of the university’s top leaders were in attendance, including athletic director Phillip Fulmer, Chancellor Donde Plowman, UT President, Randy Boyd and head coach Jeremy Pruitt.
“Seeing everybody today, seeing our efforts pay off, it’s a great thing. It’s everyone united in solidarity for a common cause as well at the end of the day,” said Trey Smith, student athlete and one of the organizers of the march.
Athletes delivered powerful speeches sharing their dual experiences of being loved on the field, but judged off of it.
“Don’t just love the Black players because we’re players. Love the whole community. If you still have hate in your heart towards a person because of the color of their skin, that says something about you,” said Jordan Allen, student athlete.
The march was not exclusively for the school’s Black students, but for the entire community. People of all different backgrounds showed up to stand in solidarity with them.
“As a predominantly white institution here, it’s very difficult to actually have a voice as the black community forms 7 percent and the Hispanic/Latino community 3 percent on campus so if we join together we can form that voice,” said Stephanie Bellozo, a senior at UT.
The march started and ended peacefully. There was an emphasis on safety as organizers continuously reminded attendees to wear masks. Organizers of the march say they were happy to have so much support from UT staff and the Knoxville community.