Felicia Goodson didn’t want to sit back and wait.
When she saw what was transpiring in the news and read tweets of former Iowa football players reporting racial disparities within the Hawkeye program, she knew what needed to be done.
Almost as quickly as the thought appeared, the Minority Athlete Coalition came to life.
A non-profit organization started by Goodson, the mother of Iowa running back Tyler Goodson, one of the MAC’s biggest goals is to educate college athletics programs on racial sensitivity to help build an inclusive culture in which all races and genders are treated well while supporting student-athletes and giving them a voice.
“Being the mom of two minority athletes, it just was something that pressed on my heart,” Goodson said. “It just kind of wouldn’t go away that these guys need a healthy, productive voice. Not really something that’s going to be divisive or unproductive. But if they had an outlet or an advocate that could help them navigate situations like this, then I think it would be beneficial for everyone involved. It’s beneficial for the program as well as the athlete.”
Eventually, the organization wants to present athletes with an anonymous survey with probing questions and a space to share their thoughts. That survey would then be used to “score” the program before taking the feedback and sharing it with institutions.
Before that, though, the MAC is focusing on the educational aspect.
“Sometimes, it’s not that we’re racist — we just don’t know,” Goodson said. “[We want] to kind of help them understand subject matters that may be considered racially insensitive. Some people are just unconsciously biased.”
Goodson said she didn’t anticipate the idea before June, but the organization has already started to make progress.
The MAC added Randy Saunders —an attorney who grew up in Iowa and die-hard Hawkeye fan — to take on the legal formation of the group, and he put together a team that has experience programming and fundraising for non-profits.
With about 800 attorneys and 25 offices at his Nelson Mullins law firm, Saunders had his pick of talent to add to the team.
Saunders and his group have provided their services pro bono ever since.
“We have a lot of experience in a lot of different areas,” Saunders said. “The nice thing about our firm is the pro bono aspect is intertwined into the culture of our firm.”
Saunders first got involved when he saw Goodson’s tweet announcing the idea for the MAC. As the chair of his firm’s pro bono program, Saunders recognized an opportunity to be involved in something that matched his firm’s pro bono values.
The impact he’s made hasn’t been lost on Goodson.
“They firmly believe in what we’re doing and what we’re trying to accomplish,” Goodson said. “As a result of that, he’s put together a really knowledgeable and great team.
“He said that when we originally put out the story, it was really something that he was just really drawn to and it kept tugging at his heart. He was kind of in the same place that I was that he knew it was something else that he needed to do. So, it immediately kind of spoke to him. He jumped on board, and he’s just been absolutely magnificent.”
Saunders said he thinks Goodson and her husband, Maurice, are the perfect people to run an organization like the MAC.
Saunders and his team want to serve their clients’ needs. They believe in the mission and want to see the organization succeed and create positive change.
“They’re some of the most genuine people that I’ve worked with,” Saunders said. “I’m just excited and actually inspired by what they’re setting out to do. They’ve got some unique experiences as parents of collegiate athletes, and they’re looking at a situation, and they’re actually looking to make an impactful, positive change, and actually be involved.”
It’s only been around for a short period of time, but the MAC has already grown as it attempts to become a running organization as soon as possible.
Goodson said the organization has filed and received its articles of incorporation, filed paperwork to register for its 501(c)(3), and is working on programming and membership areas as the organization establishes itself.
While her sons, Tyler and Mercer defensive back Taylor, haven’t been able to help much due to their busy schedules, they have shown support, along with a host of Hawkeye fans.
Goodson said there was one fan who was a season ticket holder with his father, but because of the COVID-19 crisis, they wouldn’t be able to attend games this year.
Instead, he insisted on donating the value of the tickets to the MAC.
Similarly, Goodson said she has received a number of messages with people offering services and emails of people wondering how they can donate and get involved.
“The response from Iowa fans has been just overwhelmingly amazing,” Goodson said. “There’s a small minority that, you know, some people are just going to be people. But for the most part, the Iowa fans have been true to what our experience has been. They’ve been loving, they’ve been supportive, and they’ve been behind us 1,000 percent.”
The group currently plans to roll with a tiered membership program for those who would like to provide financial support and support the cause. It will be free for student-athletes who want to be involved.
Goodson hopes the organization can develop into a program with chapters on college campuses across the country, much like what the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has done.
Along with holding fundraising events, Goodson said she wants to find specific people in different regions to train on their material so they can present the information to different programs.
Ultimately, Goodson just wants to make a difference.
“I’m just excited to see where this is going to go,” Goodson said. “Hopefully, what we’re trying to do will bring forward change that we need to see.”