Ohio State AD Gene Smith, Zach Harrison Among Representatives on Big Ten New Social Justice Coalition

Eleven Buckeyes will assist in the Big Ten Conference's efforts to combat inequality in our country

The Big Ten officially announced the members of its Anti-Hate and Anti-Racism Coalition on Monday. In addition, the Big Ten Conference formally launched a Voter Registration Initiative that has been in the planning stages since February of 2020. There are nearly 200 members in the coalition, including eight representatives currently affiliated with Ohio State athletics and three former student-athletes.

The Buckeye representatives on the coalition include Director of Athletics Gene Smith, sophomore football player Zach Harrison, Fencing Head Coach Donald Anthony Jr., Director of Men's and Women's Track and Field and Cross Country Karen Dennis, Women's Volleyball Head Coach Jen Flynn Oldenburg, Senior track and field athlete Alexus Pyles, Men's and Women's Cross Country Head Coach Khadevis Robinson, and former men's basketball player Tony White of the Buckeyes Advisory Commission.

Former football player Mekka Don is serving as a Big Ten Alumni representative to the coalition.

The Buckeyes are represented on the Big Ten Conference Voter Registration Committee by former swimmer Makena Lynch, who is Ohio State's Manager of Leadership Analytics, and former softball standout Maddy McIntyre, who serves as the university's Director of Student-Athlete Development.

“The events in our country and around the world during the past few months have strengthened my fundamental belief in our need to develop tangible and actionable efforts in a collective manner and provide viable solutions addressing the issues of hate and racism in our society,” said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. “We have the distinct opportunity and responsibility through our Coalition to continually encourage, educate and empower our student-athletes as we embrace transparent and much-needed dialogue regarding meaningful issues that have impacted race relations for many years.”

“The Big Ten Conference Voter Registration Initiative is a natural extension of the conversation within the Coalition. An election year provides the opportunity to educate our student-athletes in a non-partisan fashion regarding the importance of exercising their civic right to clearly understand the political process, register to vote, cast a vote during the upcoming election, and provide adequate support to combat voter suppression. We are at an inflection point in our country. Empowering our student-athletes by encouraging them to use their voices illustrates how we can collectively work together to build a better future.”

The Coalition was first announced in an open letter from Commissioner Warren on June 1, 2020 following the death of George Floyd. The goal of the Coalition is to seek tangible ways to actively and constructively combat racism and hate around the world while also empowering student-athletes to express their rights to free speech and peaceful protest.

There are representatives on this coalition from all parts of the conference, including student-athletes, coaches, athletic directors, chancellors, presidents and other members of the Big Ten. All 14 member institutions are represented. 

For more information, you can reference the official press release from the Big Ten Conference office.

The announcement of the Voter Registration Initiative comes three days after the NCAA Board of Governors released a statement in which it encouraged “all member schools to assist students in registering to vote in the upcoming national election and to designate November 3, 2020 as a day off from athletics activity so athletes can vote and participate in their ultimate responsibility as citizens.” Neither the Big Ten nor Ohio State has made any announcement yet on whether it will designate Nov. 3 as a day off for student-athletes.

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