Thursday, April 12, 2012

Athletes spread respect

By Sam Horn, Sports Reporter

A series of posters around campus mark Pacific Lutheran athletics as part of a larger movement to eliminate a very specific offensive word.

The Special Olympics International Board of Directors adopted a campaign to eliminate the word “retarded” eight years ago.

Today, close to 300,000 people have pledged to end the R-word, according to the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign’s website.

PLU and other colleges across the nation have stepped up and asked their athletes to partake in this campaign by creating posters them urging people to “spread the word to end the word.”

Nearly every varsity athletic team at PLU has taken up this charge.

Pontiac Township special education teacher Laura Baumgardner said in order to stop using the word “retarded,” people need to spread the word “respect.”

Many agree this step is vital in making the campaign successful.

“I think that the R-word campaign is causing students to reflect on how much progress has been made in our society in how we view and refer to the mentally and physically disabled,” men’s basketball head coach Steve Dickerson said.

NBA teams came together in support of ‘Spread the Word’ March 7. Teams hosted pledge drives at their local arenas, met Special Olympics athletes, used social media to promote the campaign and attended practices or competitions.

The campaign hopes not only to eliminate hurtful language to the mentally disabled in athletics, but also to push society as a whole away from such smears.

For example, the Oscar-nominated film The Descendants uses the word “retarded” repeatedly as a joke.

“I think it [the R-word campaign] is a great way to promote awareness because the R-word can slip into everyday conversation, which is very inappropriate,” women’s basketball guard sophomore Allie Hamilton said.

The front page of the campaign’s website features several videos about the lives of disabled individuals. One four-minute film features a young man named Eric who did not like being called retarded and was excited about the campaign moving forward.

“The word is used too casually, but the signs and posters raise a lot of awareness about what we’re really saying,” men’s basketball guard first-year Karsten Olson said.

Coach Dickerson credits the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for the “great service they have done to our campus with the campaign.”