Northeastern’s Black Athlete Caucus inspires change at university and beyond


Photo Courtesy of NUBAC Fund page

Peyton Doyle, news staff

The Northeastern University Black Athlete Caucus or NUBAC was founded to, “seek representation of the Black Athlete within the Northeastern University Community, while promoting the ideals of unity, education, and wellness,” according to its fund page

Since its founding in 2020, NUBAC, has focused on uplifting the Black athlete community by developing a relationship with the athletic department and running programs aimed at building community and raising awareness for racial issues.

“[NUBAC is] really proactive about how we can continue keeping the awareness of social justice issues and inclusion and diversity and using our student-athletes in the NUBAC group to promote those opportunities,” said Jim Madigan, Northeastern University’s athletic director. “Raising awareness and education is the most important thing — they’re doing that and always looking at doing some type of event that can continue with visibility.”

Sophomore track and field athlete Savion Thompson, the group’s administrative liaison, agreed that NUBAC is focused on increasing visibility. The group not only promotes social justice causes, but also wants to promote itself both on campus and on a national level, communicating with other collegiate and professional programs across the country.

“After the first meeting, we talked about how we could make NUBAC better and how we can get our name out there,” Thompson said. “We also talked about making sure that when you reach out to people, they understand why we’re reaching out, or what our impact was going to be on NUBAC and how not only would it benefit us but how it would benefit them as well.”

Development of the athletic community on campus is another cornerstone of NUBAC. Throughout the last few years, athletes on campus have been greatly affected by the pandemic. Several athletes have discussed how most of their time outside of class is spent almost solely with their teammates and does not allow for much time to get to know athletes on other teams who might be going through similar issues. 

Encouraging support at sports events as a whole has also become important for the group, knowing that all athletes appreciate having fans in attendance.

“We’re also really focusing a lot this year on rebuilding the athletic community, making the bond between teams tighter,” Thompson said. 

The community that the group has begun to establish helped out freshman soccer defender Katherine Marchesseault early in her Northeastern career. Marchesseault said she found a strong support system in NUBAC and the athletic community at the school.

On Sept. 19, in her second career away game, against the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Marchesseault, who is Black, heard an opponent use a racial slur toward her. Marchesseault, who initially did not tell her coaches and teammates about the incident, found a welcoming community in NUBAC that was eager to assist in any way possible. 

“They were super helpful. They all reached out to me, multiple athletes. It was amazing,” Marchesseault said. 

For example, at the women’s soccer team’s charity game Oct. 10, the team decided to sport warm-up uniforms featuring the NUBAC logo on the back under the words, “we stand together” and the word “equality” on the front.

Junior track and field athlete Kennedee Cox, president and one of the founders of NUBAC, started the group to build upon efforts like the Black Lives Matter movement and as well create a more welcoming environment for athletes at Northeastern.

“I wanted to implement change within our athletic department and after everything that went on with George Floyd and people posting these black boxes,” Cox said. “We wanted to do something where this wasn’t just a moment. We wanted to keep this going — it’s a movement.”

After becoming athletic director in the spring of 2021, Madigan said he made sure not to forget about the relationship that was formed between the athletic department and NUBAC, which was created under former Athletic Director Jeff Konya. Madigan has assisted in the hiring of a Black sports psychologist as well as an associate athletic director in charge of diversity and inclusion. 

Madigan made it a point to meet with the group early in transitioning to his new role, offering to help them in any capacity. 

“I’ve been … impressed with what they want to do,” Madigan said. “It’s about education. It’s about opportunities, to be out in the community, inviting your community members back to Northeastern for events, to participate, watching games. It’s about us and NUBAC going into the local elementary schools and reading with and mentoring the students.”

Thompson said he finds the relationship between the NUBAC and the athletic department to be strong. He said that NU has been approachable and welcomes the work that the caucus aims to achieve. 

“They’ve been really receptive,” Thompson said of the athletic department. “I wasn’t able to work with Jeff [Konya], but in working with Jim Madigan, he just seems like he’s really understanding even though he might not always get it. He’s willing to understand, so I really appreciate that.”

As a founder of the group, Cox has seen two athletic administrations during her time at NUBAC, each finding their own ways to assist. Cox praised Madigan’s additions to the athletic staff.

“Last year, we had Jeff Konya, and he was supportive of everything that we wanted to do. This year, Jim [Madigan] seems to be even more helpful,” Cox said. “He has been very receptive, very helpful to everything that we’re trying to do, which is important.”

Some of the programs that the group has set up this semester to create bonds between athletes and boost attendance at games include a kickball game and bus rides to Northeastern sporting events. The group has also worked with the school’s field hockey team to gather donations for Rosie’s Place, a nonprofit that serves as a shelter and community center for women in the city. 

The work NUBAC is doing is nowhere near finished, Cox and the other leaders want each event to be a stepping stone for the next. The organization wants to make sure to use all the resources available to the group, and are always looking for new avenues to educate people, promote their message and help the local community. 

After Thanksgiving break, NUBAC began its first large community service event of the year, partnering with Circle of Hope, to set up clothing drives for homeless individuals and others in need in the Boston area. 

Cox and Thompson said  boxes have been set up at different dorms, including International Village and the West Villages. The project has also been promoted in Matthews Arena during sporting events.

The group has recently begun the second large community based project that will mostly take place next semester. NUBAC will partner with Boston Public Schools, or BPS, to get local elementary and middle school students on campus, interacting with athletes and going to games. 

Thompson said the goal of working with BPS students is to “show them what athletics is about, show them that they can also be a college athlete if they aspire to be.” The most recent event saw local students filling the stands of a Dec. 1 women’s basketball game against Boston University. Other youth nights will occur throughout the end of this semester and into the spring.

For Madigan the most important part of NUBAC and its campaigns is that it is driven by students who know what it’s like to be an athlete on campus and can understand the needs of both people at Northeastern but also of those in the surrounding community. Madigan said that he is doing the best he can to assist the group and accomplish all NUBAC aims to do.

“It’s about not so much what is feasible, but what is achievable in making the greatest impact possible,” Madigan said. “Most of all it’s student-led, and we are glad to be part of it.”