Mizzou’s Pingeton wants to be part of path to racial equality
Missouri head women’s basketball coach Robin Pingeton was one of the 100-plus participants in a peaceful protest against racial injustice the afternoon of June 3 in downtown Columbia.
Comprised of Tiger student-athletes, coaches and staff members, the march started at the university’s trademark columns and ended at the Boone County Courthouse, where 62 athletes registered to vote.
Pingeton joined the large group in taking a knee for 8 minutes, 46 seconds – the length of time a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, killing him.
“It's been really deep. I think there's been a lot of emotions for all of us,” Pingeton said about conversations on racial equality. “I think it touches on so many different emotions, but I was really thankful to be a part of that peaceful march and I thought it was really powerful. I felt like our football team did an incredible job on just how that all came together, and to be able to be there and walk beside our student-athletes and some of our coaches and administrators, I think it was extremely powerful.
“I feel fortunate that I was able to make it work and be there. And I know there's a lot of people that would have loved to have been a part of that.”
Pingeton’s participation in the march has been one of several actions she’s taken since Floyd’s death on May 25 to encourage tough, yet necessary, conversations about racial equality.
Pingeton said the Tigers had an “incredible” two-hour Zoom call on Juneteenth, an annual holiday on June 19 celebrating the 1865 emancipation of slaves in the United States. The team discussed history and education related to the holiday.
“We continue to have a lot of conversation on our team,” Pingeton said. “Silence is not the answer. We've got to have tough, challenging conversations. ... There's so many things that I think we're all realizing that we weren't taught in our history classes. And so, just showing up, being present, asking questions, listening, the last thing we want to do is be silent. I care too much about what's going on in this world to stay silent.
“I want to be a voice and I want to be an active participant in helping create change that needs to happen.”
Pingeton has been far from the only Missouri coach or student-athlete to be vocal about racial equality since Memorial Day.
Missouri head men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin has been outspoken on the issue and has encouraged peaceful protests, as well as actions to be taken beyond the demonstrations.
Tigers head football coach Eliah Drinkwitz stated how conversations with players and walking in the peaceful protest last month was “eye-opening.”
The day after the march, women’s basketball sophomore Hayley Frank put out a lengthy statement on social media entitled “Dear White People.”
“To my fellow white people and more specifically those like me from small towns that have grown up or currently live in towns with little diversity, I am talking to you. I don’t post very often, but I have been constantly thinking about all that is going on and it is on my heart to try and use my platform to make a difference,” stated Frank, a Strafford, Mo., native. “... Playing basketball at Mizzou has given me the opportunity to be surrounded by amazing men and women of all races each with unique backgrounds and struggles that I constantly learn from.
“... It is easy for us white people to ignore the racial problems happening or even feel like they really are not that bad, but the truth is it is very much still a major problem in our country and the worst thing we can do is not acknowledge that.”
Of the 12 current roster members listed online for MU women’s basketball, six are white and six are Black.
Including Pingeton, of Missouri’s four full-time women’s basketball coaches, two are white and two are African-American.
“I definitely want to be a part of the change and Black lives do matter,” Pingeton said. “We've got to continue to talk about it. And we've got to have a plan of action. This can't be something where we're part of a moment. We've got to be part of a movement. I think it's all of our responsibilities and I could talk a long time about this. Like I said, it's pretty emotional. It's a lot of different feelings and emotions, and I definitely want to do my part.”
Pingeton’s full remarks, including on several other topics, were recorded on this week’s episode of the Columbia Daily Tribune’s Mizzou Sports Podcast. The full audio can be found here and is linked below. All episodes of the Mizzou Sports Podcast can be found at www.columbiatribune.com/podcasts.