The following article was written by Chris Starrs for Online Athens. To view the original article, click here.
Although Josh Stinson has yet to officially step on the field as a member of the Georgia baseball team, the redshirt freshman has already displayed considerable leadership skills to his teammates and the community.
Disturbed by the March death of Breonna Taylor at the hands of police and a grand jury’s recent decision to eschew charging any of the officers in Louisville, Ky., Stinson organized and led a protest march in downtown Athens last Friday and tentatively plans a similar demonstration this Friday.
“We’re going to do a different type of protest,” said Stinson late Wednesday afternoon. “We’re still trying to figure it all out. It may be at Clarke Central but we’re not really sure yet.”
Stinson, a right-handed outfielder from Grayson, organized his first protest about a month ago in response to the death in early May of George Floyd, who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis, Minn. He said his initial motivation was anger but added that after receiving encouragement from other marchers, he came to get a better handle on the importance of what he was doing.
“It felt great, it’s a feeling like no other, honestly,” said Stinson, who is majoring in mechanical engineering. “It was a crazy scene, so many people coming together to fight for a common cause, standing together and wanting the same thing…It was a very diverse crowd – people from everywhere, all different types.”
In his corner
In addition to receiving support from some of his teammates and others in the UGA community, Stinson also has Diamond Dogs head coach Scott Stricklin in his corner.
“I think it shows leadership on his part,” said Stricklin. “He’s speaking out on what he believes in and we encourage our guys to do that. Josh is a very positive member of our team in every way, shape and form. And he speaks on what he believes in and that’s what we talk to our players about – make sure you stand for something.”
“When I started the first protest, (Stricklin) texted me and said he was on my side and told me to be safe and to do this the right way and that he supports me,” said Stinson, who will celebrate his 20th birthday in October. “We’ve had (team) Zoom meetings about racial profiling and other topics and we’ve had a few speakers come in to talk to us so people will get the message. We’re having a speaker (on Thursday) who will talk to us about racism and respect.”
Stricklin said he does not dissuade his players from being vocal on the topics of the day and sees positive results from such interactions.
“We obviously support the players and encourage them to be thoughtful when they use their voice,” he said. “We want them to use their voice and to be aware when they use their voice that it has an impact. Young people have more of a voice and a platform than any generation before them because of social media, and our players use it and we’re seeing it more and more, and what I ask our players to do is to be thoughtful, to be respectful and to understand that not everyone agrees with what they say, but (when) you believe in what you believe in, it’s OK to speak out about it.
“At the end of the day, we need to make a change and that’s what this generation is trying to do and I think we’re seeing a lot of positives come out of it. There are a lot of different sides to this, but I see our kids speaking their mind and exercising their right to do that and I full support them.”
The Georgia Way
Besides holding regular discussions on social issues, the UGA baseball team has also taken part in the athletic department’s Dawgs for Pups Food2Kids Snack Drive, which has resulted in the donation of some 3,000 pounds of snacks for young people in the Athens-Clarke County community. https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
Stinson also joined teammates Riley King, C.J. Smith, Mason Meadows, Dwight Allen and Ryan Webb to create a video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuNgzd32uD8) as part of the 10-week #DawgsToThePolls voter-education series, organized in part by The Georgia Way network, which encourages all coaches and staff members within the athletic association to encourage voter registration.
Stinson said that whenever he speaks with someone who isn’t registered to vote, he immediately sends them a link with information on how to register. This November’s election will be his first time to help select the country’s next president and he plans to return to his hometown to cast his ballot.
“I’ve voted many times before,” he said. “I’ll probably go home to vote. I only live 40 minutes up the road, so I’ll probably go see my parents and go vote.”
Unlike some other university communities where coaches have bristled at media questions regarding information they share with their players about voting, The Georgia Way provides evidence that the athletic department’s leaders are not letting this opportunity slip by.
“That’s something that’s become very important to our student-athletes, and through the Georgia Way it’s been something that our players have spoken out about,” said Stricklin. “Our players are very educated on that and kids these days are more educated than ever before. I think we’ve seen our players feel it’s very important and it’s something we’ll continue to talk about because they have the right to vote and they need to exercise it.”
Stinson, who spoke at both of the protests he organized (where he said, “It’s on us to advocate and push for change and we have to fight if we want to get change”), said he’s always seen himself as a natural leader and is growing more assured in the role.
“I’m very comfortable,” he said. “I keep up with politics and I know what’s going on, but I’m not going to be disagreeable if people don’t support the same things I do. I support equality. I want everybody to be treated the same. I’m against racism. I won’t bash people for their political views. I’m just fighting for equality and I won’t stop after the election, or ever.”