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The athlete who challenged racism by sharing his story

by Panagiotis Argitis - Sports Editor
Tue, Apr 10th 2018 10:00 pm
This is the instagram post message that freshman CJ Parker had accompanying the above photo after an Oswego player verbally accosted him using a racial slur.
This is the instagram post message that freshman CJ Parker had accompanying the above photo after an Oswego player verbally accosted him using a racial slur.

“I have never been discriminated against in my life, until that day,” said CJ Parker, a black freshman student-athlete for the Brockport men’s lacrosse team. 

That day was on Saturday, March 31, where the Rochester native got his first SUNYAC action by coming on as a sub during the fourth quarter of Brockport’s game against Oswego. After making some vital stops on defense and contributing to getting ground balls, things looked good for Parker’s conference debut. But that all ended a couple minutes to his substitution following a scuffle between his teammates and two Oswego players. 

“They played a chirpy game, ... to say the least,” Parker said remembering. “I immediately ran upfield when I saw them pushing. I did the same back, and thinking back on it now it probably wasn’t the smartest move, but I did what I thought was right in the moment.”  

After yelling some more, the two groups put their hands down and the fight came to a halt. Parker saw his first flag of his collegiate career for his involvement in the fight and rightfully so, but what came next was not right by any means.

With his head down and steam coming off his body, Parker walked back to his team’s bench having claimed a penalty call, and that was when it happened. A player from Oswego’s side directed his anger at Parker by calling him names, but it wasn’t simple chirping that came out of his mouth.  

“He called me a f****n c**n n****r,” Parker said. “He wasn’t even part of the players that my teammates and I got into a fight with. It just kinda happened out of nowhere and for no reason.”

There was an immediate reaction from Parker’s teammates but not from himself. Instead of lashing out at the racist remarks made against him, the defenseman kept his cool and saw the Oswego athletes’ words less as racial resentment, but more so an act fueled by a weak mentality. 

“I was honestly taken aback,” Parker said. “How can someone stoop down to such a shallow level?” 

Despite never being a victim of racial discrimination prior to the incident, and having grown up in Gates Chili, which Parker claims to be a very diverse neighborhood and school district, he was not phased by the prejudice he experienced. 

“I don’t have a problem with anyone, but that kid had a problem with me being on that field,” Parker said. “He tried degrading me for my skin color because that is the only way he can bring me down.” 

The Oswego lacrosse organization has since moved on from its partnership with the player that showed prejudice toward Parker. The Oswego men’s lacrosse head coach Drew Bezek addressed the incident right after the game by ordering the Oswego student-athlete to come forward and take ownership of what he said. He was released from the program immediately. 

Following the player’s drop from Oswego’s lacrosse team, Bezek reached out to our coach and Parker to apologize on behalf of the entire program.

Men’s lacrosse is predominantly played by white males. That fact has been made clear over Parker’s twelve-year-long lacrosse career, but never has it gotten in his way of being comfortable with who he is; until now. 

“You don’t really see blacks in the sport, so it hurt when he said what he said,” Parker said. “It’s in the past. It’s not something that I’m gonna let bring me down.”  

The freshman did not keep the incident to himself and instead went on social media with an instagram post that shared his thoughts. The post caught the attention of a lot of eyes and sparked conversations in its comment section. One of the accounts which commented and shared CJ’s post is a lacrosse account, that focuses on the sport of lacrosse and athletes of color, called BlaxersBlog. Professional lacrosse player Kyle Harrison also commented asking for more details on what happened. 

“Sharing my story with the rest of the world is the best thing I can do,” Parker said. “The power of social media is incredible, and receiving backing from others has been really helpful.”      

Apart from bringing the team closer together, Parker believes that the situation he faced has only made him stronger than he was before. He will carry the experience with him for the rest of his life, but he will not let it define his lacrosse career or the love he has for the sport.

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Taken by Vincent Croce:
Staff Photographer

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