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Defend Rights: Camryn Speese, Black History Month

Updated: Feb 24, 2021

Camryn Speese is a former collegiate basketball player out of Augsburg University in Minneapolis, MN. During her time as an Auggie, Speese was a 2x Captain and 2x All-Conference player which lead her to be a 1,000 point scorer landing her at 5th in all time scoring and 9th in all time rebounding. She is currently the Social Media and Marketing Intern at Her Next Play!

What has basketball taught you off the court?

Whew! This is a loaded question. Basketball taught me so much! It taught me that communication is key to success, to come prepared physically AND mentally, but most importantly to work hard regardless of the situation. Whether you go hard to finish a tough drill, push through the final sprints of the day, or take that charge, the work ethic that basketball gives you follows you throughout your entire life.

What is your favorite memory as a basketball player?

My favorite memory has to be from my last season at Augsburg when we swept St. Thomas in the semi-finals of the MIAC Tournament. Our gym was packed, the fans were crazy and we truly just played so well! Basketball gives me a thrill in life that nothing else could replace.

Who is your role model and why?

My current role model is Serena Williams, she is AMAZING! To be able to dominate and challenge the status quo within the tennis world while transcending stereotypes of what a strong Black woman looks like is just spectacular! For her to do it all with the grace, confidence and style she has is just so mind-blowing to me.

Why is it important for us to elevate Black voices in sports?

It’s incredibly important to elevate Black voices within sports to give kids role models and to make them see that it can be done by someone that looks like them!

Black voices have historically been silenced in sport and society, only being appreciated because of what we can do or how much money we make other people.

We are so much more than our athletic ability. It is no longer the time for Black athletes to just "shut up and dribble.” Our voices and opinions matter and should be heard! We are human just like everyone else.

Have you ever been judged on your appearance rather than your ability?

Absolutely, my whole life people have made assumptions about who they think I am. I’ve been in situations with referees, coaches, and just random people on the street who have assumptions about how fast, strong, or aggressively I play, or even just overall my personality because of the way I look. I have people come up to me all the time asking if I played the point position or if I was a shooting guard and they are SHOCKED (I’m only 5’8 1/2) to find out that I was a power forward and that I did the jump almost every game of my college career!

It’s so important for everyone to be seen for who they really are. Don't base your idea of someone on assumptions because a majority of the time, the assumptions are wrong.

What does it mean to you to "defend rights" in sports?

I think that “defending rights” means working hard to increase access and visibility of women’s sports and also HOW those sports are being shown. For example, the NBA’s Summer League games will get way more national coverage on major news outlets than regular season WNBA games. I read a study that showed women's sports receive only 4% of all sport media coverage and are more likely to be portrayed in a sexually provocative pose.

Women and men need to continue to be vocal on gender equality in sports because every athlete works incredibly hard to be able to compete at the highest level. For women to not be shown the same appreciation men receive is ridiculous.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

For me, Black History Month is a time to take a look back and celebrate those who fought for me to be able to have the opportunities that I have had in life! It’s also a time to figure out how we can create MORE justice and equity in our daily lives.

Disparities exist today because of a long history of policies that excluded and exploited Black Americans and those effects won’t just go away overnight. We have to challenge ourselves to ask tough, uncomfortable questions in order to make a better world for those who come after us.

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