A campaign to stop high school athletes from enrolling at Tennessee’s colleges has begun. The organization ‘Community Oversight Now’ threatened the move earlier this month when a bill was filed to strip power from Nashville’s police oversight board.
The group got to work Thursday night. Their message to young athletes seems harsh if it’s taken out of context. But as they explain, it’s clear who’s the true target.
Star recruits, receiving offer-letters to play Division-1 sports in Tennessee have a decision to make. Because they’ll also find envelopes in their mailbox, trying to sway them, to stay away.
“We think this legislation is discriminatory,” says Sekou Franklin, of Community Oversight Now.
Franklin and other organizers stamped, sealed hundreds of letters as a response to that legislation, a Tennessee bill attempting to limit the authority of the newly formed, Nashville community oversight board.
Volunteers are starting with 230 letters addressed to a dozen different states.
“It’s a withdrawal campaign asking top tier, top 5 percent athletes who are being offered, considered for scholarships in football and basketball,” Franklin says.
Don’t come to Tennessee is the message, designed to hurt the state financially by keeping the best athletes away from the state’s major institutions.
Lawmakers haven’t addressed this movement but have dug-in deep in opposition to the oversight board.
“They (police) are men, they are women, fathers and mothers, and children and sons, that bleed for this city,” says State Representative, William Lamberth. “And we have the gall to try to drag them in front of an unelected tribunal with subpoena power, or to threaten them?”
But around their table, gathered together to send out mailers to future members of the 2020 college recruiting class, members of Community Oversight Now believe their memo is urgent. They say black athletes are commonly the targets of police harassment.
“We need to make right, what is not right,” says community organizer, Jackie Sims. “The way law enforcement is practiced is still problematic in communities of color.”
The campaign will only contact athletes with multiple scholarship offers, to encourage them to choose another reputable university outside of the state.