Lynn Williams talks about racing in football
U.S. Women’s National Team star Lynn Williams has had a ton of serious racing conversations with her teammates over the past year. Through partnerships with other organizations, the North Carolina Courage Forward is committed to improving itself and educating those around them about discrimination, activism, and education. Through the Black Women in Sport Foundation, she was able to use her platform to facilitate these conversations with football fans across the country, and has even bigger plans to expand the organization’s reach in 2021.
Williams spoke to Emox News about how to deal with awkward conversations about racing, an example for young black athletes and upcoming projects with the Black Women in Sport Foundation.
Emox News: You are connected to both Black women’s collective of players and Black Women in Sport Foundation, focusing on these serious conversations about racism and all injustices with a wider audience. How do you intend to merge your platform with your guiding principles in order to continue to advocate racial equality?
Lynn Williams: I feel like I didn’t take it for granted to be open about literally anything. Growing up, I was very careful about rocking the boat and continued to focus on playing soccer. As I got older and with what I’ve experienced in my life and have black nieces and nephews, I realized that I need to be clearer about my experiences.
Our goal with the Black Women’s Players Collective is to help disadvantaged black girls who haven’t had a chance to play on a real team. There is power in numbers and hopefully as we grow we can continue to give something back by sponsoring a player, running clinics, etc. I would be doing myself a disservice if I honestly continued to be silent. If I just played football and never stood up for the voiceless, I wouldn’t consider it a successful career.
Emox News: I asked Your USWNT colleague Crystal Dunn did the same and I am also interested to hear your answer: There weren’t very many black soccer players who could look up to grow up. How are you going to change that picture on and off the field?
Lynn Williams: Crystal and I discuss this all the time. At the start of the season, immediately after the assassination of George Floyd, she said, “The way we are starting to change systemic racism is changing the narrative in our sport and in our communities.” Football is the community in which we are heavily involved. I think the language we use to talk about black athletes is very different from the language we use to talk about non-black players. I hear from myself: “She is fast, she is athletic, she can jump high.” However, there does not seem to be any room for analysis such as “She sees the field well or she has sharp technical skills.”
When it comes to non-black athletes, it’s almost like they complement their skills, speed, and dominance better. We need to start challenging commentators to look objectively at soccer players and not categorize them or put them in these boxes based on skin color.
Emox News: Last year you played on the North Carolina Courage with six black women. How were you able to use all of your personal experiences as a black athlete and implement it in such a way that teammates could understand your perspective of being black in America?
Lynn Williams: It is helpful to have black teammates to back up your statements because you eliminate the risk of others invalidating them. One day we all decided to get together in a park and spend hours exchanging stories. I give my teammates the honor of being able to find out about our fights. We were also able to answer their questions in a safe place which I thought was great.
As I said, I think this is just where communication begins and the attempt to understand each other and see different perspectives. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. I have heard stories throughout the National Women’s Soccer League where someone was the only black member on the team and the club either had trouble understanding or accepting that what they were facing was a big deal.
When I hear that, it confirms the reason we founded the Black Women ‘s Players Collective. We want to support you as best we can so that you don’t feel alone.
Emox News: Over the past few months, you have been encouraging your followers to educate themselves and most importantly, step up BWSP’s efforts. How do you react to women who feel when they are still struggling to get their thoughts across to non-white audiences, or when they feel they don’t look like a soccer player aesthetically?
Lynn Williams: First and foremost, we will continue to tell these stories. We explained it to our teammates, but not to the world. We want to create a space where children who are passionate about the game can have a safe space for it. Our goal is to systematically change the way football is played in this country while sharing our stories and creating an open dialogue.
I encourage women facing this conflict to stay confident and be proud of your blackness and the way that it glows when the sweat hits you. Your skills, your sportiness, your hair and your skin make you unique. Play in your fortune and don’t let pictures of what the traditional looks of a soccer player keep you from playing a game you love. Different is cool.
Pass Her the Mic is a series by Emox News that introduces black women at the intersection of sports and race and discusses a variety of topics ranging from racial injustice to athletic activism.
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