The USC Trojans athletics department has created a task force to deal with societal and racial issues that affect its Black student-athletes. And with that, USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn, in a letter to the Trojan family, made the announcement that the newly formed task force-USC Black Lives Matter Action Team (USCABLM) will be lead by former Los Angeles Sparks head coach Julie Rousseau.
“Raised in Los Angeles with experiences as a student-athlete, college and professional coach, and educator, Julie is uniquely qualified to lead our USC Athletics Black Lives Matter Action Team,” said Bohn. “Julie’s passion and vision, strong leadership skills, and outstanding reputation, as well as her innovative academic background, make her a wonderful fit to guide this critically important initiative.
“In alignment with the university’s diversity and inclusion efforts, the Action Team will work collaboratively with student-athletes, including representatives from our Trojan Athletic Senate and United Black Student-Athletes Association, to ensure that all voices are equally represented and the actions we take reflect our collective spirit and desire for change, Bohn added.”
Already an adjunct professor at USC where she teaches identity development and law in the school’s Gender and Sexuality Studies department, Rousseau will be tasked to work with a steering committee expected to find and execute reform in addressing social injustices perpetrated upon the Black student-athlete at USC.
USCABLM will also be collaborating with an advisory committee that features coaches, student-athletes, community leaders, coaches, and staff members to pursue change.
The student-athletes that will be part of the advisory committee are Ethan Anderson (Men’s Basketball), Croix Bethune (Women’s Soccer), Desiree Caldwell (Women’s Basketball), Mireille Codjia (Women’s Rowing), Ben Easington (Football), Joy McArthur (Women’s Track and Field), John Thomas (Baseball).
USC coaches involved in the project include Aarika Hughes (Women’s Basketball), Jason Hart (Men’s Basketball), Mike Jinks (Football), Kris Kwinta (Men’s Tennis), Keidane McAlpine (Women’s Soccer), Lindsey Munday (Women’s Lacrosse), Jeff Nygaard (Men’s Volleyball), Caryl Smith Gilbert (Track and Field).
In a letter to the Trojan family on June 17, Bohn wrote, “indeed, this is a time for actions, not words. Our intention is not to take the first action, but rather to take the actions that will deliver sustained, long-term impact,” while announcing plans for the formation of the department’s Black Lives Matter Action Team to guide USC Athletics through a process of continued listening, learning, leading and educating.
The ultimate goal, Bohn wrote, is to implement a series of meaningful and substantive actions and reforms consistent with the essence of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Specifically, in solidarity with Black student-athletes, coaches, and staff in USC Athletics and beyond, the USCABLM Action Team will examine and address social injustices experienced by Black student-athletes at USC.
“The anger, sadness and desperation that I have heard from our student-athletes has led us to an unrelenting resolve to effect change,” said Bohn. “Our shared mission is to confront – head on, together, and with urgency and purpose – the social injustices that are tearing our communities apart. We all share the same commitment to building an inclusive athletics program that provides our student-athletes with a safe and supportive environment. We stand for justice and embrace a culture of respect for all.”
As for Rousseau, she comes with a strong amount of experience and pedigree in dealing with student-athletes and their issues. She began that connection when she coached Washington Prep High School. From there, Rousseau has spent the majority of her coaching career at the collegiate level (Nevada, Stanford, Pepperdine, Arizona State), while also managing to work for the WNBA (Seattle, Los Angeles Sparks) as well.
“First, I’d like to thank Mike Bohn for allowing me to be a part of his vision for the Trojans Athletics Department,” said Rousseau. “I am excited to chair USC Athletics’ Black Lives Matter Action Team. This will be a supportive team effort aimed at eliminating social injustice and racism within Trojan Athletics, the University, and its surrounding communities.
“Like the late, great civil rights activist and Congressman John R. Lewis once said, ‘We may not have chosen the time, but the time has chosen us.’ The time begs for us to continue the work and legacy of our ancestors,” added Rousseau. “For such a time as this, I hope to be a bridge-builder for creating an environment that exemplifies regard and respect for the lives of Black student-athletes at USC. All Lives Can’t Matter, Until Black Lives Matter.”