There are approximately 100 African American and other student-athletes of color this school year at the University of Minnesota. In an occasional series throughout the 2021-22 school and sports year, the MSR will highlight many of these players.
This week: Gopher soccer players senior Patricia Ward and juniors Keziah Inniss and Izzy Brown; and Gopher softball player Makenna Dowell
Ten sistas on the field could be a record here
At a recent Minnesota soccer match, an 0-0 two overtime tie with Mississippi State, we noticed just one Black woman sitting among the nearly 300 persons that afternoon at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium. “That’s my mom,” said Izzy Brown, one of the home team’s three Black players. This is Brown’s first season with the Gophers after two seasons at North Carolina.
“Soccer is a predominately White sport,” noted senior Patricia Ward on the scarcity of Blacks in the stands at games. “I don’t think that we’re not intentionally not watched [by Blacks]. The general public in Minnesota is majority-White.”
Around seven percent of all Division I soccer players are Black, up from five percent in 2005. A 2007 Diverse Education article pointed out “a litany of factors and circumstances” behind such low numbers, including cost factors. Rutgers Professor Emmett Gill has estimated the cost of developing a female soccer player (training, equipment, team fees, travel, and other expenses associated with the sport), beginning in 5th grade over a seven-year period, can be upwards of $14 million.
Mississippi State had seven Blacks, making with the Gopher three a grand total of 10 sistahs. “They had a lot,” noted the Gopher players of the visitors.
Ward, a sports management major, is on the school’s career lists in assists (tied for first), points (tied for third), and shots (fifth). “I’m planning on graduating this December, and I do plan on hopefully pursuing a master’s degree,” she said proudly.
“I think it’s going to be in exercise physiology. Not sure whether that will be here or someplace else. But I do plan to continue playing soccer for another year.”
Brown wants to major in communications studies. Her father is Chucky Brown, a former college star who played 13 years in the NBA. Was there any pressure to follow in her dad’s footsteps?
“I would say there’s a lot of pressure,” but not from her father, Brown responded. “My dad says pressure is when you don’t know what you’re doing.”
When not playing, Inniss loves to paint. “It’s just something that I don’t really need to be thinking about what I’m doing,” she noted. “I just want to create. Nothing really particular, but I tend to like drawing and painting nature.”
Minnesota’s next game is Sept. 18 at home against Wisconsin, at 6 pm.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.