Before tipoff of the Edina-Hopkins girls' basketball game in January, the two teams met to make a statement against racism. Both teams wore warmups with slogans supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
For Edina senior forward Allie Murphy, what transpired was the culmination of weeks of work to start a dialogue about social justice with her team and others in the metro area.
Motivated earlier by reading stories of players at schools around the country being barred from speaking out, Murphy had decided to bring the movement to her own team. She e-mailed Edina athletic director Troy Stein seeking approval to wear Black Lives Matter shirts during warmups. When he agreed, Murphy got to work.
She invited her teammates to discuss issues of race and white privilege with Black classmates and former players. She wanted her peers to understand the issue rather than just wear the T-shirts and take a knee before games. The discussion was tense at first.
"I did have people not talk to me for a couple of days," Murphy said. "But then they started to read articles on their own, they started to get more curious by themselves. … And it really grew after that."
Her efforts earned Murphy the Star Tribune All-Metro Sports Difference Maker Award for the 2020-21 school year, one in a series of honors being announced this week recognizing top student-athletes.
Murphy spoke with her mentor, PJ Hill, a Minneapolis native and former professional basketball player who had trained her when she was in middle school. Hill, now a vice president of the Minneapolis NAACP chapter, had been active in the wake of George Floyd's murder in May 2020.
Murphy joined Hill at marches and helped clean up around the city after Floyd's death sparked riots and protests. When she decided to take a stand at Edina, she knew exactly who she could ask for advice.
"The conversations that she is able to have as a teenage white girl with her friends will be totally different than the conversations that I would be able to have," Hill said. "They will be real and authentic with her, and they may not be that with me. But that is her opportunity to impact them in a positive way."
Murphy didn't want to be the only one having the conversation. As a white student in a predominantly white district, she couldn't speak for Black people in Edina. So Murphy partnered with Edina's Black Student Union to design shirts for her team and have discussions about race and privilege in the area. She wanted to be sure Black students felt heard and represented, not talked over.
The organization's name was printed on the T-shirts by a local Black-owned clothing store, Supply Clothing, along with the Black Lives Matter slogan. In April, members of the basketball team and Black Student Union gave a joint presentation on the initiative to the Edina school board.
Allie's mother, Cindy, had the idea for another team initiative: care packages. Before each game, Murphy and some teammates volunteered to take a package to the opposing team. They wrote "bigger than basketball" on the box, which contained snacks, an explanation of the team's social justice mission and how other teams could help. Also included was an essay on white privilege written by NBA player Kyle Korver.
Opponents were surprised at the gesture, Murphy said, but the response was positive. The Hopkins team also had made their own shirts, featuring the words, "Be the Change," which they wore for the Jan. 30 matchup against Edina. Murphy said girls from both teams plan to meet this summer to continue the conversation.
"Watching those teams, all those young female leaders out there, when they would come together and shake hands at the beginning of the games, a lot of people had goose bumps," Cindy said. "These were confident young women looking at each other and talking about it and building these bonds."
Next year, Murphy will attend Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., where she will play basketball and study to pursue a career in the medical field. She hopes to continue her social justice work with her new team and beyond.
"They're all for it," Murphy said of Pitzer. "I think I'm going right where I need to be at this point."
The Difference Maker of the Year award is part of the Star Tribune All-Metro Sports Awards, an all-virtual event this year. All of our honors will be announced each day this week.
All-Metro Sports Awards 2020-21
The Star Tribune is recognizing the best metro area high school athletes with its fourth annual All-Metro Sports Awards in daily video and newspaper presentations this week. Our AMSAs are all-virtual again this year. Our top 10 awards will be revealed this week, generally two at a time. You can see them first online in a special daily video presentation at noon at startribune.com/sports, and then in the next day's newspaper. The awards to be announced and featured in this week's Star Tribune sports sections:
Sunday: Difference Maker award winner.
Day 1: (Monday online, Tuesday paper) Courage in Competition, Play of the Year
Day 2: Girls' Team Coach of the Year, Boys' Team Coach of the Year
Day 3: Student First, All-Metro Team Champions (dance, synchronized swimming)
Day 4: Girls' Athlete of the Year, Boys' Athlete of the Year
Day 5: Boys' Team of the Year, Girls' Team of the Year
Thanks for reading the Star Tribune. We hope next year we'll get back to announcing these awards in person so the winners can hear the applause they richly deserve.
- Paul Klauda, high school sports editor