It was announced on June 9 that the men’s track and field and cross-country teams at Brown University will be reinstated as varsity sports. This decision comes just two weeks after the university demoted the teams to club status. After making these cuts, which were made to ensure “diversity and inclusion” (according to a statement released by Brown), the school spoke up about racial injustice and inequality in the U.S. Brown was scrutinized for its conflicting stances, advocating for diversity while cutting track, which has more Black athletes on its roster (11) than the school’s lacrosse, baseball, hockey and rowing teams combined. It didn’t take long for the school to reverse its course and elevate track and field and cross-country to varsity status once again.
Brown University has reinstated its men's track & field and cross country teams as varsity sports, effective immediately.
Full letter from university president Christina Paxson to the Brown community: pic.twitter.com/G4PznrevTj
— Jonathan Gault (@jgault13) June 10, 2020
In addition to axing men’s track and field and cross-country (the women’s teams weren’t affected) from its varsity lineup, Brown demoted men and women’s fencing, golf, squash, women’s skiing and women’s equestrian, for a total of 11 cuts (the school considers track, field and cross-country to be three separate teams). The timing couldn’t have been worse for Brown to make this decision, because the cuts were made after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis.
Since Floyd’s death, thousands of people have gathered across the U.S. to protest systemic racism and to fight for equality. Like many schools and businesses, Brown released a statement condemning racism and inequality, only to have many people point out that their words (speaking out against racism and encouraging diversity) didn’t match their actions (cutting track, field and cross-country).
Let’s unpack the hypocrisy of Christina Paxson & @BrownAthletics. Was the “excellence initiative” about excellence? No. It was about Title IX. How do we support women in sports? By increasing the # of women in the spirit of the law? No. Let’s cut teams with the largest # of men. https://t.co/0HNz4Uz13q
— David Melly (@davidlikesyou) June 6, 2020
The decision to promote the Brown coed and women’s sailing clubs to varsity status also didn’t help the school’s image, seeing as sailing is a predominantly White sport (just look at the Rio Olympic rosters for the U.S. and Canadian sailing teams). Replacing diverse sports like track and field and cross-country with sailing to ensure diversity and inclusion doesn’t add up.
Brown’s decision to cut these teams came after several other NCAA schools, such as the University of Akron in Ohio and Central Michigan University, eliminated their track and field programs due to budget cuts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Christina Paxson, the university president of Brown, released a letter regarding the reinstatement of the men’s teams, stating that the “original revised roster of varsity sports maintained Brown’s overall diversity in varsity athletics, but we now more fully appreciate the consequences of eliminating men’s track, field and cross-country for Black students in our community.”
Brown University’s senior leaders shared a message about confronting anti-black racism and racial injustice with the University’s community of faculty, staff, students and alumni.
— Brown University (@BrownUniversity) June 1, 2020
Paxson continued to say the school stands by the decision to cut certain teams, but Brown will “do so while providing equal opportunities to participate in athletics … and remaining true to our values of supporting diversity and inclusion.”