NORFOLK, Va. - "Sports figures definitely have a voice," Norfolk State men's hoops coach Robert Jones said.
Sports figures have come together to use that voice as part of Advancement of Blacks in Sports (ABIS), a newly-formed nonprofit that NSU's Jones is supporting.
ABIS is on a mission to advocate for racial, social and economic justice for Black Americans across all athletics. The organization officially launched on Wednesday after being in the works since the death of George Floyd.
"The first call was only about 15 of us and the last call we had probably about 60 people," Jones said. "People just talked about some of the unfair practices that are out there in sports. I know a lot of it is directed socially, but there's some unfair practices in sport too as far as hiring and things of that nature."
The topic of equitable hiring practices is one Jones has a unique perspective on as a coach at an HBCU school.
"In intercollegiate athletics sometimes you’re just pigeonholed, or labeled, as an HBCU coach," Jones said. That's a very unfair label. Sometimes it seems like you have to do that much more than some of your counterparts to get the same opportunities. When you see someone who's done less than you get a job opportunity or a job offer, whatever that might be, whether they take it or not because it's not all about taking the next thing, but just getting the recognition that you deserve."
In addition to conversations Jones has had with members of the ABIS in recent months, he's also made sure to have dialogue about racial inequality with his players.
"It's unfortunate what happened to George Floyd and Jacob Blake and Breonna Taylor and everyone else, but we had these talks last year before any of this happened just about how to interact with the police because at the end of the day you want to go home."
Driving the point home of ways racial equity can be achieved in sports is something Jones, and the ABIS, will continue to do in the fight for equality.