Cortney Jones, More Than an Athlete
If Cortney Jones could be described in one word it would be powerful. Whether she's competing on the track or leading the charge on social justice at Arizona State University, Jones' strength is unwavering.
Before coming to Arizona State, Jones ran a 12.72 in the 100m hurdles while competing with Florida State at the 2019 ACC championships. A six-time All-American and 60mH indoor and outdoor record holder at FSU, Jones is considered one of the best hurdlers in the country and hopes to earn a spot with Team USA in 2021.
A competitor and a leader, Cortney Jones is the whole package. ?? ??
— Sun Devil TFXC (@SunDevilTFXC) September 11, 2020
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Cortney Jones moves to #??2?? in school history with her performance in the 60m hurdles final! pic.twitter.com/V9sdoEHXVi
— Sun Devil TFXC (@SunDevilTFXC) January 25, 2020
Katia Seymour first woman to reach NCAA Indoor Final in the 200m in 25 years, and only a freshman. Sophomore Cortney Jones first woman in FSU history to ever reach finals in the 60m hurdles. ????????well done ladies. pic.twitter.com/co22DVcVDF
— Brandon Hon (@coachHonTAMU) March 12, 2018
But Jones isn't only a superstar on the field. Since transferring to ASU ahead of her junior year, Jones has already become a changemaker for student-athletes. As an executive member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) Jones helped push several initiatives forward this past spring and summer, including helping to lead the effort to get all Sun Devil student-athletes registered to vote ahead of the November general elections.
Jones wasn't always the veracious leader she is today. At FSU, she felt limited in what she could do as a student-athlete.
"No one is going to hear my voice," she said.
But on May 25, 2020, all of that changed.
It was a day that rocked the nation. George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store in Minneapolis when the police were called. They pinned Floyd to the ground with a knee to his neck for several minutes, ultimately killing him.
Saddened and enraged by the event, Jones felt it was time to speak up.
"It was heavy on my heart to speak up about it, especially being one of the only people of color that was on the executive board for SAAC," Jones said. "I felt that it was my place."
At 1 a.m. Jones sent out a message and let the board know that they had to talk about what happened to George Floyd.
The ensuing conversations led to SAAC's June 1st virtual student-athlete townhall.
"It was an opportunity for student-athletes to truly speak about how they were feeling, especially student-athletes of color," Jones said.
The townhall sparked a series of conversations amongst Arizona State faculty and students. Student-athletes of color had a chance to be heard and non-athletes of color had the opportunity to educate themselves and become allies. Eventually Sun Devils United, a multi-ethnic group, was born.
Jones and a few other athletes on campus formed SDU so that all student-athletes could have the opportunity to not only lead, but also put out valuable information, like the aforementioned voter registration initiative. The group's goal is to create new initiatives on campus so that all student-athletes can feel involved. Per Jones, the group tries to answer: "What can we do; what is going on; what's happening in the world and what can we do to change it; and what can we do to make other student-athletes feel involved."
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones spent the summer and better part of the fall semester back home in Florida taking online classes and training. Next year Jones plans on getting even more involved in SAAC and SDU, and she hopes to start the Black Student Athlete Association (BSAA) on campus. Jones wants the BSAA to serve as a space for not only black students, but all student-athletes who want to speak, learn and educate themselves while having a sense of community.
Jones shared that the Sun Devil Athletics administration has been incredibly supportive of the work her and her fellow athletes have been doing, but she hopes that organizations like Sun Devils United and BSAA can help black and brown students across campus feel more included in the ASU community as a whole. That's an area Jones shared ASU could improve.
"It's so hard to [list exact big changes she wants ASU administration to make] because as athletes we live in a bubble," Jones said. "The administration within athletics has been so supportive and so inclusive in what we've been doing so it's hard to speak on everything that ASU has done and is doing. I think the biggest thing that ASU as a whole can do is be more inclusive in including their black and brown students of color."
In regard to the relationship between campus police and black students, Jones didn't have any personal stories of negative interactions, and from March-November she was off campus, but she hopes that police in general continue to actively see black people as people.
"I don't want to generalize police officers, but some of them have the tendency to think that black people are these big, mean, scary, threats instead of seeing us as people. Some of them have an immediate need to feel threatened and I don't understand where that bias comes from," Jones said.
Jones wants police to take better measurements into who they allow to become officers, and she wants them to get de-escalation training and stick to it, along with having consequences if an officer harasses people of color.
"I want us as a society to get to a place where we don't have to speak up," Jones said. "There shouldn't be a place where we have to fight for equality and morals, so for me that's my biggest drive. I want it to be safe for me and, eventually, my kids. I don't want them to experience what we're going through."
Just this past June, during the height of the protests against police brutality, Jones was riding in a nicer car with her boyfriend when they were pulled over by the police. The officer claimed Jones and her boyfriend were pulled over for expired tags, but Jones' boyfriend had new tags on his vehicle and the paperwork to prove it. Eventually the officer ran the registration information, and everything checked out and the couple continued on their way.
The moment made Jones wonder, "Is he pulling us over for driving while black, or is he pulling us over for a legitimate reason?" and it highlights the type of issues black people deal with that she wants the country to move beyond.
For now, Jones is preparing to graduate in December with her bachelor's in sociology and hopes to begin pursuing her master's in legal studies in sports business and law next year. Athletically, Jones' main goal is to get to the 2021 Olympics.
Jones plans to keep fighting for social justice too. She wants to "continue to find ways to make myself better and move the movement forward."
For other athletes who have the urge to speak out but may be hesitant that it's not their place, Jones gave this advice:
"Stay true to yourself, and if you want something, stay after it. Don't let the fact that you're part of an institution stop you from speaking on what you truly want to speak on. If you want to accomplish something, you can."
Leaving us with a final quote.
"Black Lives Matter today and everyday, period."