JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Current and former East Tennessee State University (ETSU) students shared their experiences as black student-athletes at an open discussion panel in the Brown Hall auditorium.

ETSU Athletics hosted the event named “The Power of Understanding: Voices of ETSU Black Student-Athletes” as a Black History Month observance open to the public.

Dr. Daryl Carter, the associate dean for Equity & Inclusion for the College of Arts & Sciences moderated the discussion.

“Here at ETSU, everybody deserves dignity and respect,” said Carter. “And our student-athletes are a part of that family, and so it’s important for everybody to understand that these are real people. They’re real people who commit tremendous amounts of energy, time, art, sweat, blood, to the institution, to their education, and that needs to be respected.”

Erek Campbell, a senior football player says having these discussions help open people’s perspectives.

“The way you move through this world, especially this country as diverse as it is, is by being able to empathize with everybody’s perspectives and just being able to understand everybody else,” said Campbell.

The student-athletes discussed the many challenges they face in their roles.

“I don’t think people completely understand the pressure that we have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, it’s not just on game days,” said Campbell. “It’s every single day, we have to wake up for the class because they’re checking IDs. Every day when you go to workouts, you have to perform or the practice you have to perform.”

Campbell also talked about the standards that other students aren’t normally held to.

“They don’t have to deal with immediate repercussions for their actions because, once you go to college for most people, it’s kind of like you’re on your own,” said Campbell. “You have the freedom to do what you please and the freedom like, if ‘I don’t want to go to class today, I don’t have to, or I don’t want to do this homework assignment, or if I just want to fail this class, like I don’t really feel like putting effort for this class, I can just take it next semester,’ It doesn’t really work like that because we’re not dealing with our own money, we’re dealing with other people’s money,” added Campbell.

“Nothing brings people together like sports,” said Carter said about equity and inclusion.

Click here to find a list of more Black History Month events at ETSU.