Athletics Department recalls team’s jackets

 

By Lauren O’Neil

 

The Athletics Department confiscated cross country team sweatshirts because of concerns that the sweatshirts could be interpreted as offensive.

The sweatshirts displayed the expression, “Families run together,” and an image of a silhouetted family running.

The image was created 20 years ago by a California Department of Transportation employee, to caution drivers of pedestrians on Southern California highways near San Diego. Many of these pedestrians were illegal aliens, and the image has since become commonly known as the “illegal alien sign.”

Director of Athletics Audrius Barzdukas, said he “got a couple of phone calls from people that saw the sweatshirts.”

“I could understand how the image could’ve been interpreted. It’s a very iconic image for people who live in Southern California,” Barzdukas said. “When people saw the sweatshirts they interpreted them in different ways, and some weren’t positive, in ways that the creators of it didn’t foresee.”

Bridget Golob ’10 designed what she thought was a family-friendly sweatshirt.

“We picked the design for the sweatshirts because it depicts a family running,” Golob said. “Cross country is like one massive family so the generic, silhouetted image fit perfectly. I had no intent to create a sweatshirt that would disrespect anybody.”

Golob discovered the image on a commercial t-shirt-making website. It has recently been added to the Smithsonian Museum as an example of American art. The team members discussed and approved the design before it was distributed.

The team received no negative responses to the sweatshirts, Golob said.

“The entire team and the school community that I have spoken to have really liked the sweatshirts,” Golob said. “Before Thursday, nobody had spoken to me about the sweatshirts being insensitive or feeling uncomfortable about our wearing them.”

The team was forced to return the already paid-for sweatshirts to the coaches in order to board the buses before their Oct. 29 meet.

“It was unannounced and somewhat humiliating,” Golob said. “We had no warm-up jackets for the meet.”

Some team members agree with the administration’s decision to take away the sweatshirts.

“At first I didn’t really see the point,” David Abergel ’10 said. “I wasn’t upset, because I mean they are just jackets. When I actually found out how and why the sign could be offending to people, I was really upset with myself for being ignorant on the subject. It was definitely the right move on the administration’s part to confiscate them. If I would have known what they represented, I wouldn’t have even worn it.”

Some believe that the design represents racism and elitism, while some people think otherwise.

“There is no race to the silhouetted figures,” Golob said. “It seems that the history of the design is the reason why the sweatshirts were confiscated.”

“I understand why they are offensive,” Chaplain Father J. Young said. “Everyone who sees that sign on the 405 Freeway knows what it means.”

School psychologist Dr. Sheila Siegel said that the problem was that people recognize the image and associate it with the mistreatment of immigrants.

She compared the image to exploitative images of women.

“This issue is obviously bigger than the cross country team or our school,” Golob said.

Team members were not punished for the sweatshirts.

“Context is everything, and the context was innocent and well intentioned,” Barzdukas said. “But, nevertheless, because of different interpretations that people could make of it, we decided it was important to recall the sweatshirts.”

The team will be refunded for the sweatshirts and given new team gear, Barzdukas said.