Athletes Seek Racial Sensitivity Changes in FDU Athletics

By Nancy Sanchez-Diaz
Entertainment Editor 

In light of the Black Lives Matter protests across the country, FDU athletes have asked Athletic Director Bradford Hurlbut for changes in athletics.

Natalia Toby, a Fairleigh Dickinson All-American fencer who graduated as a marketing major in May, requested a Zoom meeting with Hurlbut to express fears and concerns on Wednesday, June 3, The Equinox has learned.

“Race will always affect athletes of color,” said Toby in a phone interview with The Equinox. “I know a lot of athletes on the basketball team are scared, having to look over their shoulders as Black men, even on the field.” 

To improve the environment for all students of color, athletes suggested four changes to Hurlbut: 

  1. Proper representation in counseling and therapy
  2. Race seminars 
  3. Increasing involvement with the Hackensack community, which is predominantly Black and Hispanic. 
  4. Having more referees of color to handle on-field problems.

The 39 athletes attending the session added a fifth change, emphasizing the importance of voting. 

The NCAA on Friday encouraged its 1,100 member colleges and universities to give athletes a day off from sports on election day, Nov. 3, The New York Times reported on Friday. 

“To achieve real change, students need to know what to do on a local level, and the power of voting,” Toby said. 

Toby recalled an instance when an athlete was called a racial slur by an opponent on the field, and the coaching staff didn’t handle it as appropriately as expected. The coaching staff said they would handle the student, but the student was barely given a slap on the wrist. He was out on the field the next time they met.

Student-Athletes Request Opportunity to Protest 

Toby also recalled her fight to have a ‘Run With Ahmaud Arbery’ event with the school but was turned down. “They told us, ‘you can do it as an individual, but not as a group,’ ” Toby said.  

In February, Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed, 25-year-old black man, was shot to death while jogging in a neighborhood outside Brunswick, Ga., after being pursued by two white men in a pickup truck.

This was one of many racially charged crimes to spark protests across the nation. 

Growing frustrated by the university’s lack of empathy for the athletes’ need to address Arbery’s death, Toby reached out to Hurlbut in an angry email, she said. 

“It felt like we were a social embarrassment for them,” Toby said. 

Hurlbut immediately responded and offered to get on the phone with Toby, which is where the idea of an athletes-only meeting, addressing racial concerns within the department was born. 

“Since then, he’s proven himself to be a true ally of ours,” Toby continued in the phone interview. “He was enthusiastic and willing to listen.” 

Toby, along with FDU athletes, is planning more Zoom meetings to pursue these changes, said Toby in a follow-up message to The Equinox Monday. 

The Equinox is reaching out to Hurlbut for comment and will publish a follow-up story.

Photo By FDU Athletics

FDU Fencing team alumna Natalia Toby