SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Akwasi Frimpong never felt the need to speak out on the issue of race.
“I’ve always kind of been silent about the whole racism stuff, mainly because as a kid growing up my parents didn’t talk about racism,” he said. “Color didn’t matter. Even if you brought it up, it was always about work hard, get a degree. It was more like a battle we can’t win.”
But after seeing the protests following the killing of George Floyd, Frimpong, a Utah Valley University graduate and 2018 Winter Olympian in the sport of skeleton, felt compelled to make his voice heard. So he made a video he posted on YouTube called Empty Hate.
“It’s very important to not stay silent,” Frimpong said. “Because silence does nobody good.”
“As a black father and husband, I have faced racism as a student, as an athlete, as a customer,” he said in the video. “But I want to use those experiences as an example of how empty that hate can be.”
Competing in an almost exclusively white sport, Frimpong has faced his share of racism over the years.
“Especially in a winter sport, let me tell you, I have encountered a lot of racism stuff and bullying as well,” he said. “I think if we all take a moment in time to understand what is going on. We need to listen to understand. Because you may not have faced racism yourself, but I have.”
But Frimpong overcame the doubters, and became the first African ever to win a skeleton race last year in Park City. He was also the flag bearer for his home country of Ghana in the 2018 Winter Olympics.
As the father of a mixed-race three-year-old daughter, Frimpong felt encouraged for her future as he attended his first protest rally this week in Salt Lake City.
“I don’t want to live in such a society where people are not feeling welcome and people are empty and feeling hatred,” he said. “I want us to live in a beautiful world where everybody is part of his world equally. I’m definitely hopeful. Are we going to see the biggest changes right away? No, I think to be able to change and see things differently, it starts in our own homes. It starts in our education system. Finally, for the first time, I think this world is going to change in a positive way.”
As for his skeleton career, Frimpong is ranked in the top-60 in the world, and is hoping to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing for Ghana.
“I still have a lot to learn,” the 34-year-old said. “But I believe that by 2022 I’ll be able to make Utah proud, to make Ghana proud, and to make everybody who loves sports see the underdog do some miracle stuff.”