Stokes takes stance against social injustice, leads This Is Us Softball
Kiki Stokes, a former Nebraska softball standout, takes a stand against social injustice by switching teams following a GM's politically-charged tweet.
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Kiki Stokes couldn’t believe it. She had just returned to the locker room following the Scrap Yard Dawgs’ 2020 season opener. Stokes, a fifth-year outfielder in National Pro Fastpitch, reached for her phone and read a text message from teammate Kelsey Stewart. It was a screenshot of a tweet published by the Scrap Yard Dawgs’ Twitter account which read: “Hey @realDonaldTrump Pro Fastpitch being played live @usssaspacecoast @USSSAPride Everyone respecting the FLAG.” Included in the post was a picture of the team’s 18 players standing during the national anthem.
Stokes says she sat at her locker in disbelief. Shortly after, Stokes’ teammates became aware of the tweet, which was published during the first inning of their game.
“It took me a second to process what had happened,” Stokes said. “Everyone was distraught. We were blindsided.”
Stokes says the team did not discuss whether players would stand or kneel during the national anthem prior to the game. Stokes adds that the moment quickly arrived on June 22nd, and her decision to remain standing does not represent her political beliefs.
“We were just happy to be back on the field,” Stokes said.
The 26-year-old outfielder says Scrap Yard Dawgs players were used as “political pawns” by team general manager Connie May, who published the tweet. Stokes says players requested May join the team in the locker room, in which May attempted to justify the post.
”There was no apology,” Stokes said. “I know the conversation didn’t last very long. She mentioned ‘All Lives Matter.' At that point, that was my cue.”
Stokes, the only African-American in the Scrap Yard Dawgs’ locker room for the season opener, said she walked out of the stadium vowing to never play for the organization again.
“She (May) was using us a political pawns,” Stokes said. “It was for her agenda.”
While in the locker room, Stokes says she became a focal point of her teammates. Many players expressed their support for Stokes, despite the politically charged tweet.
“They were like ‘Kiki, what do you want to do?’” Stokes said. “I expressed I can’t play for an organization that doesn’t stand behind me and understand my morals and my values. I’m going to have to walk away. Immediately, people didn’t have to think about it. Jerseys came off and it was done.”
The 18-player roster followed Stokes’ lead and quit the Scrap Yard Dawgs. Five days later, they were back on the field together as This Is Us Softball. Stokes says the players felt an obligation to continue playing and wanted to use their platform to raise social awareness. This Is Us Softball aims to acknowledge awareness, empowerment, and unity, according to Stokes. The team has held pregame forums to discuss race relations. In addition, players have worn shirts recognizing popular African-American softball players, including Stokes.
“What we did was not easy,” Stokes said. “It was the right thing. We’re all learning. We’re all figuring out how to be better from it.”
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