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Chico State

Language Matters to Student-Athletes

Haley Kroll, Chico State women's cross country athlete, says, "I don't say man up because it insinuates that women can't be courageous."
Jason Halley

“Everyone is welcome here. We are a family. We want everyone to feel included, and we want our language to reflect that.” – Haley Kroll, Chico State Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) co-president.

The Chico State Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, better known as SAAC, has long held this belief. In 2013, the group was the driving force behind the department’s “You Can Play” campaign and video.

As a member of SAAC, Kroll was considering what the committee and the department could do next to further its message of care and inclusivity. That’s when she discovered the “You Don’t Say” campaign. A collaboration between two student groups at Duke University, the campaign was designed to raise awareness about language that marginalizes or offends particular identities, according to the group’s Facebook page.

“I came across it on Facebook and I was blown away,” Kroll explained. “At this point we had already done the ‘You Can Play’ video. I thought this would be a good follow-up to that, touching again on how it doesn’t matter who you are or how you identify yourself. The main point is that everyone is welcome and we are a family.”

Kroll brought the idea to Chico State Associate Director of Athletics Mitch Cox, and then to a SAAC meeting. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

With the help of Chico State’s Creative Media and Technology staff, which produced the finished product, they got to work. Each student-athlete or pair decided on the word or words they don’t say and the rationale.

“We had a final preview of it. They had them covered up. When they revealed them all, I was in awe,” Kroll said. “They really capture what we are trying to do. They really bring it to life through pictures. It’s really, really incredible.”

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The posters are already hanging from the walls of the department’s new Strength and Conditioning Center, and will be displayed in Kendall Hall in December.

“I hope people see them–not only the rest of our student-athletes, but school wide,” Kroll said. “I hope when people see them they begin to realize these words do hurt people. Even if it doesn’t mean anything to you, it will mean something to the person next to you, or in your class, or on your team.”

Kroll is clear that the campaign isn’t a call for perfection. But she hopes it opens up more doors for conversation and care.

“People are going to slip up. They’re going to say something they don’t mean to say–maybe even the word that is on their poster,” Kroll said. “But when we hear something, we should be saying something. Many times people don’t even understand that what they are saying can be hurtful. The whole purpose of this campaign is to open people’s eyes and let them see what these words mean and how hurtful they can be. Hopefully it will cause people to think before they speak and be aware of the type of inclusive language they should be using.”

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