Athletes and Activism: Husky Sports, Social Justice and COVID-19

Wed. May 26, 2021      5:30–7 p.m.

Racial justice, economic inequality, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic — college sports and college athletes exist at the intersection of many of today’s most pressing issues.

Leaders from University of Washington Intercollegiate Athletics — including UW Head Football Coach Jimmy Lake and new Associate Athletic Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Sheridan Blanford — join current and former Husky athletes for a frank discussion of the issues faced by college athletes and the power of college athletics to drive change.


Jimmy Lake, UW Head Football Coach

Sheridan Blanford, UW Associate Athletic Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Sophie Summers, UW Volleyball Student-Athlete

Braden Bishop, Outfielder, San Francisco Giants


Alexes Harris, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology and Faculty Athletics Representative, UW

About the speakers

UW Head Football Coach Jimmy Lake may be just four games into his career as a college football head coach, but his résumé already shows that he has all of the tools to perform at the highest level.

Lake was hired to replace former Huskies head coach Chris Petersen on Dec. 2, 2019, the very same day that Petersen announced he was stepping down. Lake was a natural and simple choice, given his experience both as UW’s defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator, but also his ties to the Pacific Northwest, his time coaching in the NFL, and the success he’d built in terms of producing NFL-quality players.

Lake’s first year in charge, the 2020 season, was cut short due to the worldwide pandemic, as the Huskies were able to play just four games. Nonetheless, his Huskies won the Pac-12 North Division title and produced four players who earned some level of All-America acclaim. (Full bio)

Sheridan Blanford, ’16, was named the associate athletics director for diversity, equity and inclusion at the University of Washington in December, 2020. Sheridan is responsible for design, facilitation and implementation of programs, policies and procedures that align with the commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion for staff and students for UW Athletics. Formerly, Sheridan served as the director of inclusion and engagement for the University of Wisconsin athletics department, and prior to that she served as the assistant director for the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). In 2019, Blanford was named one of “Wisconsin’s 49 Most Influential Black Leaders” by Madison 365. Women Leaders in College Sports also selected Blanford as a 2018 Rising Star. She previously served as the assistant director for the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). Blanford graduated from St. Olaf College, where she played basketball and earned her master’s degree in intercollegiate athletic leadership from the University of Washington. (Read the University of Washington Magazine profile)

Sophia Summers is a second-year student-athlete on the women’s indoor volleyball team. They recently won the PAC-12 championship and finished their season in the national semifinals. She is an executive board member on the Black Student Athlete Alliance that specializes in alumni relations. She also has an internship at Change and Innovation Agency where she works to increase efficiency of government systems. She is currently a medical anthropology and global health major, with hopes to attend grad school.

San Francisco Giants outfielder Braden Bishop played for the Huskies from 2013 to 2015 before going pro. Off the field, Bishop works for families affected by Alzheimer’s with his 4Mom charity, and is vocal and impassioned in his support for racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement. (SB Nation profile)

Event moderator Alexes Harris, Ph.D., is the Presidential Term Professor and professor of sociology at the UW. Her research fundamentally centers on issues of inequality, poverty and race in United States’ criminal legal systems. Her book, “A Pound of Flesh: Monetary Sanctions as a Punishment for the Poor” details the ways in which sentenced fines and fees often put an undue burden on disadvantaged populations and place them under even greater supervision of the criminal justice system. Dr. Harris has been appointed to serve on several federal advisory boards, she has been inducted into the Washington State Academy of Sciences (2017), and is currently the chair of the Washington State Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. In 2018, Dr. Harris was acknowledged for her teaching with the University of Washington’s highest teaching honor, the Distinguished Teaching Award. (Full bio)