Russell Dinkins Wants to Save Brown Track And Field, Examining Racial Injustice in Sport

“The Ivy League is a very special conference. Even though we fought like heck to beat each other at conference, I really felt like after Heps, it was One Ivy. You could go to regionals and everyone would be cheering for each other and generally happy when an Ivy League runner would make it to nationals – especially in an event where it wasn’t usually expected. I remember being so happy seeing the Harvard girls kill it in the sprints. I remember getting a lot of love from Ivy league coaches when I was at regionals and nationals

I love Princeton and it was my alma mater. And you might not hear many Ivy League athletes say this but I will say it, I would have been thrilled and honored to represent any of the Ivy League institutions because the opportunity that’s afforded by an Ivy League education is really unique and special. I really don’t have to go into why. The fact that track and field offers opportunities for kids that may not otherwise have an opportunity to have an Ivy League education – and these kids are capable. Even me! I did not think that I could get into an Ivy League school. I had good grades in high school but I thought that I would just go after Duke. I thought Duke would be my top school and a stretch. All the stars would have had to align in order for Duke to happen. I was really targeting schools that were of a lower academic profile and a lower athletic profile. I randomly ran quick during my junior year. When that happened, I started getting calls from the Ivy League and then started realizing, ‘Oh! I could go to the Ivy League? Woah! I could go to Princeton? That’s the best school. I can go there?’ That was something that was huge for me. Not to give a whole sob story but I was very fortunate and blessed in my life but I did come from humble beginnings.

When Brown was taking away one of those opportunities, I saw a person like me not having that opportunity. That riled me up so much so that I had to call them out. This is wrong. You can not take away the sport that is the most egalitarian in terms of access through income and equality but also in terms of race.

Most Ivy League athletes are white. There’s not a problem with whiteness. However, when you look at the sports that are offered at an Ivy League institution, a lot of schools have like 38 sports and half of them are these super affluent sports that you need to have a lot of money in order to participate in.

People talk about affirmative action but the biggest kind of affirmative action or the biggest easiest entree into the Ivy League is through these elite sports. If you also want to drill it down, track and field has the largest participation of any sport in the country. If you’re talking about just male participation, then football outranks it and track is second. When you include male and female, track is No. 1. So you have the sport that has the biggest participation and affords the greatest accesses but you’re taking that away in lieu of sports that have very small participation numbers and a higher barrier to entry. I just felt it was completely wrong. You shouldn’t be trading opportunities to get into an Ivy League school for one group of people and giving the people who already have a bunch of advantages an even greater advantage.

Here’s the thing: For a kid who plays squash in Connecticut, it doesn’t matter if they go to Brown, Princeton or Harvard. They can go to some other school and they’re likely going to be OK. Their families have money. They have connections. They’re going to be alright. They’re going to go to college. A kid who ran really fast and ran a really great 1,500 at their small state meet or their local city conference, gets a call from somebody – they have a life-changing opportunity. They have an opportunity to change their future in a way that otherwise would not have been possible.

Why am I going to sit back and let that happen? I’m not so that’s why I wrote the article.”

On May 28, Brown University announced its decision to cut 11 varsity sports as part of their Excellence in Brown Athletics Initiative. The teams that were cut were men’s and women’s fencing, men’s and women’s golf, women’s skiing, men’s and women’s squash, women’s equestrian, and men’s track, field, and cross country — will transition to club status. Former Princeton middle distance specialist Russell Dinkins joins the CITIUS MAG Podcast after writing “Brown University, If You Were Actually Serious About Racial Justice You Would Not Be Cutting the Men’s Track Team.” Nearly 50,000 people have signed a petition to retain the program’s varsity status.

David Melly, the host of the Run Your Mouth Podcast and a contributor to CITIUS MAG, joins me as well because he wrote his own open letter to the Brown University president on Calling For Excellence.

We discuss why we’re all disappointed by Brown’s decision and why it should be reinstated to show true advocacy for diversity in athletics. And in light of the current events in the world, this ties very well into the ongoing discussion of diversifying organizations and making sure there is equality in the opportunities presented to people of color.

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Chris Chavez

Chris Chavez launched CITIUS MAG in 2016 as a passion project while working full-time for Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and grew his humble blog into a multi-pronged media company. He completed all six World Marathon Majors and is an aspiring sub-five-minute miler.