Highlighting Black Athletes at Cabrini

By Thomas Ryan
February 13, 2023

Men's soccer player T.J Scott. Photo by Tommy Ryan.
Men's soccer player T.J Scott. Photo by Tommy Ryan.

Student athletes hold an influential role at any university. On campus, they are highly visible members of the student body, performing in front of crowds of their peers, alumni, and the local community. Off campus, they have the responsibility of representing the university while traveling and competing at other schools. Being a student athlete of color, though, adds an additional challenge.

Cabrini University’s student body is over 50 percent white, yet it offers a men’s basketball team that is 80 percent people of color. Senior center Malik Bailey said it feels good to be recognized for his accomplishments on the court, but he’s very aware that things were not always this way.

Coming to a PWI [predominantly white institution] as an African American is for sure a positive representation for Black people. It sets the tone that we don’t have to all go to HBCU [Historically Black Colleges/University] schools, that we are just as good to attend PWIs. It feels good to attend a school where years ago people of my color could never think of doing that,” Bailey said.

Junior point guard Aquil Stewart agrees that playing for Cabrini has many benefits.

Sports builds community

Junior guard Aquil Stewart. Photo by Tommy Ryan.

“To be an African American student athlete has put me in a position to represent such a great school … not everyone gets an opportunity to play college basketball. The energy that [the fans] bring has allowed players and students to build a connection because it shows how much fun they have when they are at the games,” Stewart said.

Yet, Stewart notes, there is more work to be done. “I think we could make teams [here] more diverse by recruiting more inner-city athletes,” Stewart said.

Senior tennis player Fanta Bility admits that she often feels like she stands out, and not just because she’s an excellent tennis player. “I feel like I represent people of color each time I play because I see so few people of color at competitions. And because I’m African, that adds another layer of adjustment that I have to go through,” Bility said.

Lessons learned off the court

However, Bility points out that what she’s learned as a college athlete has helped her in other areas as well.

“Being an athlete has helped me be more open and outspoken, not just with my team but with players from other teams when we compete. And this is something I’ve carried over into the classroom.  I’m not afraid to express my mind, [and this] has helped me be more comfortable with myself,” Bility said.

Senior forward Kai Williams. Photo by Tommy Ryan.

Senior women’s basketball forward Kai Williams shares her unique perspective on what basketball has taught her off the court.

“During high school, I was part of a very diverse team, and we were always taught that the only colors that mattered were the ones on our jerseys … I think it is important for athletes of any race to always feel empowered because being a student athlete is not always easy,” Williams said.

Like Bility, Williams agrees that playing sports has taught her life lessons. “Basketball teaches communication, trust, and unity within a team. Since [I’ve started] playing basketball, I’ve allowed myself to have open communication and build trust with other students outside of my team,” Williams said.

Senior soccer player T.J. Scott recognizes not only the positives of representing his school, but the challenges ahead.

“As a black student athlete, I’ll always appreciate the road that others have taken here before me. Sports have always brought the community together, and I am glad to be a part of that impact on a small scale,” Scott said.

As for offering more opportunities for athletes like himself, Scott noted, “Every team has its needs, and each coach has worked hard to create recruiting pipelines … [but] there has to be a willingness to look at different places and to see if there are talented players who have a tendency to be overlooked,” Scott said.

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Thomas Ryan

My name is Thomas Ryan, I am a senior from Abington, Pennsylvania, pursuing a degree in Digital Communication. My role in the Loquitor is visual editor. I love all things photography and taking photos for the Loquitor. I have done freelance work in my free time for the past year and a half. I have worked with several photographers and agencies to create content for websites and many clients. As of late I have been focusing my skills on sports photography and updating my portfolio every chance I get.

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