After OUAZ running back Scotty Nixon helped organize a peaceful protest June 3 at Bell and Litchfield roads, he went to a larger protest in San Diego.
He made an Instagram page to post pictures and videos from the protest and organize future ones. Nixon said he was inspired in California, hearing hundreds of people honking their horns and standing outside holding signs of support for black lives.
On June 8 he and other members of Black Lives Matter Surprise realized how big their team was. Fellow athletes from OUAZ and local high schools were among the hundreds of people there.
“At the second protest we had close to 300 people spread on all four corners of Litchfield and Bell. When I got home I actually cried seeing how many people stood in support of Black Lives Matter in my own city,” Nixon stated in a Twitter interview.
Perhaps no participant was easier to notice than Nixon’s high school and college teammate, 6-6, 305-pound offensive lineman Andy Simek.
Simek previously took part in the Red For Ed protests while in high school at Shadow Ridge. He said he believe that this movement is even stronger and more prevalent because of how active the younger community is in social justice.
While discussions on police brutality and racial inequity have been part of the national conversation for the past five or six years, there is a sense from people taking part in these protests that this time is different.
Nixon said this time people are starting to realize that this is not something new, and with COVID-19 going on and no sports or other distractions on TV and everything being closed, social media did a great job on bringing that to light following the killing of George Floyd. In turn, with less distractions for a generation filled with devices to distract, there was more focus on previous accounts of police brutality.
“I believe that the conversation is very different compared to when I was younger. People are talking, educating and understanding what Black Lives Matter is all about, and that is the key part of this movement. Being able to communicate and having people be open to that communication, that’s what we want,” Simek stated in a Twitter interview.
Nixon graduated from Shadow Ridge in 2018 and Simek in 2019.
Both said the Sprit players and coaches have had many conversations about these issues in recent weeks.
Simek said one of his favorite things about OUAZ is the amount of diversity on the team — with guys from all over the country and the world bringing different perspectives and giving the squad insights they otherwise might not have had.
Nixon said his role in organizing the protests has been helped by being a college athlete because he can reach out to teammates and facilities at Ottawa.
“Typically in college sports, you are taught to stay quiet during times like this and not have a political opinion, and I was scared to speak up because of that, but I am a black man before I am an athlete and will fight for my people,” Nixon stated. “My football coaches at Ottawa have been very supportive of this movement and have been backing me every step of the way and showing up to our protests including the head coach Mike Nesbitt.”
Another, younger, group of teammates took part in the June 8 protest, which was the first they were a part of. Valley Vista basketball players Terrell Doxie and Aadem and Jennah Isai were there along with boys basketball coach Ben Isai and his wife, Shelley.
Doxie heard about the June 8 demonstration after the smaller protest June 3, and said he wanted to go and stand up for something. He talked to family and teammates, and was pleasantly surprised to see the Isai family joining his that night.
“I think it’s really special that coach and his family went. The team is very diverse and he understands where we’re coming from. He’s conscious about what needs to change,” Doxie said.
Aadem Isai said he, his family and teammates have spoke about the subject previously, and the conversation picked up in recent weeks.
“This has been going on for a long time, since at least the 60s and we need to come together,” Aadem Isai said. “Terrell would have a higher chance of getting harmed or harassed if he’s stopped by police and that’s not ok.”
Both Doxie and Isai — who will be sophomores this fall — said Valley Vista has a very diverse student body with significant black, Hispanic and white enrollment.
And that diversity of background and life experiences only increases on the basketball team.
Isai and his family bring another voice to the Monsoon team as a Muslim family at a campus with many Catholic and Christian teens.
“We all are genuine in our respect for each other because we all have that one goal — to win and work together,” Isai said.
Doxie said he was touched by a regular display of a larger team goal during the protest. And he hopes the message of accountability resonates with officers when a police “teammate” gets out of line.
“There were times when a police officer drove by and everyone would take a knee,” Doxie said. “As a teammate you’re supposed to keep your teammates accountable and I think it was a good message to policemen to hold other officers accountable.”
A larger cross-section of Surprise came together that night. Nixon and Simek were part of that first generation of kids to spend most of their young lives growing up in the city after Surprise’s population exploded in the 2000s.
Nixon said he saw kids he had not seen since second grade out protesting. At the same time, he said it has been difficult to find people he grew up speaking out against Black Lives Matter — not wanting any part of it or thinking the group is full of looters and rioters.
“Hopefully seeing all these people come together and fight for a similar cause will change their minds and want them to come stand with us for change and equality,” Nixon stated.
“Our goal for BLMsurprise is to spread awareness of ongoing racial issues in America, we want every one know it’s not black versus white but everyone versus racism. We want to eliminate hate within our community, the Valley, and hopefully, one day be able to change this nation we live in.”
Simek said without football, he wouldn’t be who he is today. And he said a team approach is needed right now, to come together for a common goal, to love one another and to celebrate our differences, but strive to be closer.
“I have seen almost all the kids I grew up with and was friends with out there at the protests, and I feel incredibly proud of our generation for our unity in this time. It’s incredible to see so many work together for our common goal,” Simek stated. “It is difficult at times when someone doesn’t understand why we’re there, but that’s where the communication and education come in. Through talking to one another, and taking the time to talk, I feel that any disagreements or misunderstanding are soon passed aside in favor of working together. I’m proud of how open our conversations have been, and I’m prouder more of how many want to make a change in our community.”