It’s no coincidence the Ragin’ Cajuns march for unity comes on the 57th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
UL student-athletes and coaches walked from the Leon Moncla training facility to the Lafayette Police Department, calling for some of the same values Dr. King dreamed of: peace, justice, and equality.
“For life,” Ragin’ Cajuns running back T.J. Wisham says. “For lives with an ‘s.’ Too many ‘s.’ Too many names. Too many hashtags. Too many reasons. Too many lives lost. That’s the main reason.”
“This is about creating awareness,” Ragin’ Cajuns head coach Billy Napier says. “It’s about sports being the ultimate unifier. I think you’re seeing that throughout our country, in professional sports, in college sports. I think some of the things we experience in athletics affect who we are and make us have a stronger opinion on these things.”
Student-athletes from all fall sports and men’s and women’s basketball marched, and junior running back T.J. Wisham was one of the Cajuns organizing the walk.
Wisham is calling this campaign by the slogan “United.” It’s a part of a continuing conversation the team has been having since February, and there have been conversations with the Lafayette Police, Sheriff’s Office, UL PD, and the state police all in hopes of a more unified community.
“To be able to affect people’s lives in a positive manner,” Wisham says. “To bring us all together. It’s not about you, me, him, her. It’s all united as one.”
“You know I think today is about having an opportunity for our team and our athletic department to be an example of being united,” Napier says.
Wisham says the Cajuns were inspired by the athletes taking a stand at the professional levels such as the NBA. He also is motivated by his own personal experiences.
“Having this conversation about change because that is something that me, growing up as a black man, that I’ve had to face,” Wisham says. “I’ve looked down the barrel of an officer’s weapon. I thank God everyday she didn’t pull the trigger. That is part of the reason.”
Walking down Johnston Street, several cars honked in support of the movement, and others even dropped off waters to the student-athletes.
Wisham says he’s grateful for the support the Lafayette community provides.
“I call Lafayette my home, because that’s where I am,” Wisham says. “That’s where I love. That’s who I play for. Seeing that support was heartfelt, and it means a lot.”
Wisham tells us Friday’s march was only the beginning for the “United” campaign. They plan to continue having conversations with local officials and the community.