Chico athletes reflect on Black History Month


Ryan McCasland/Chico State Sports Information

Joshua Curls driving pass a defender while playing for the Wildcats.

February is Black History Month in the United States. The month honors and remembers important African American figures and events throughout history.  

In the sports world, many Black athletes have made historic sacrifices to garner support for representation in sports. Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali and Jesse Owens are Black athletes who broke through barriers in the sports world.

Joshua Curls, a redshirt junior on the men’s basketball team, is proud and reminded every day of these courageous athletes. 

“In my room right now I have a poster from the 1968 Olympics with the picture of Tommie Smith and John Carlos holding their fist up to show their support for human rights and the empowerment of Black Americans,” Curls said. 

Kaleb Carter attempting to throw down a dunk at Columbia College.
Kaleb Carter attempting to throw down a dunk at Columbia College.

Kaleb Carter, a junior on the men’s basketball team, is happy and appreciative that the US celebrates Black History Month. 

“To me, Black History Month means that people appreciate what my people have contributed to this country and the hardships we went through while doing it,” Carter said. “I have nothing but pride being a Black basketball player.” 

There are many athletes who have impacted the sports world and continue to do so. Both Curls and Carter are impacted and appreciative of these athletes daily. 

“When I think of prominent Black athletes who have left a great impact in history, I think of those who have affected our culture and left a legacy outside of their sport,” Curls said. “People like Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson and Arthur Ashe come to mind.” 

As for Carter, athletes like LeBron James come to mind for his contributions to the NBA and his hometown of Akron, Ohio.

“One athlete I look up to in regards to raising awareness is LeBron James,” Carter said. “While being one of the most popular athletes of all time he does a great job at using his platform to promote and raise awareness for all positive things for our people.”

James is one of the biggest ambassadors when it comes to raising awareness for Black athletes across the United States. He opened up the I-Promise school in his hometown in July 2018. The school gives underprivileged, Black youth the opportunity to learn in a classroom and helps set them up with scholarships and the tools to attend college. 

“For me to be in a position where I have the resources, I have the finance, I have the people, I have the structure and I have the city around me, why not?” James asked. “Why not continue to do great things where you can help the youth? Everything that these kids are going through, the drugs, the violence, the guns, everything that they’ve gone through as kids, I know.” 

Jazmyne Lillie shooting a shot at Rogers High School in Puyallup, Washington.
Jazmyne Lillie shooting a shot at Rogers High School in Puyallup, Washington.

This month continues to be important to athletes everywhere and especially here at Chico State. Jazmyne Lillie, a freshman women’s basketball player, mentioned what being a Black athlete means to her. 

“As a Black athlete playing my sport I feel extremely proud to play,” Lillie said. “I feel blessed to have made it to college and playing basketball in a very supportive community makes me feel very grateful and I can’t express that enough.” 

Curls is proud to be playing basketball collegiately and is hopeful about what the NBA and the Player’s Association is doing for the sport. 

“I have nothing but pride being a Black basketball player and accept the platform that comes with that,” Curls said. “I am optimistic that we will see change especially after seeing how well the NBA handled the social controversy this summer.” 

Carter on the other hand feels a sense of importance knowing he is playing for something much bigger than just the game itself. 

“As a Black athlete playing my sport it is something I take pride in,” Carter said. “Especially being a basketball player I am constantly reminded of the greats that helped lift the sport to where it is now that are mostly Black. It makes me feel like I am playing for something greater than myself.”

Jacob Milligan can be reached at [email protected] or @champ_milly8 on Twitter