Sophomore Lamar Remy is standing in the huddle with his teammates at practice. His teammates have their heads down, waiting for the uncomfortable situation to end.
Remy, in disbelief of what he just heard, speaks up.
“I shouted at him that he didn’t have to say it like that,” Remy said. “I looked around knowing that it did not sound like it was acceptable to say, especially in front of the entire team.”
One of Remy’s coaches on the men’s tennis team had just said something that Remy referred to as “along the lines of being racist,” and he had done so in front of all of his teammates.
At the time, Remy had maybe wished someone else would have stepped up, but looking back to last season when the situation occurred, he understands why everyone else tried to avoid the situation.
“I feel like sometimes the bystander effect kicks in,” Remy said. “You think someone else is going to step in, so you don’t, but no one at the time stepped in and did anything. I guess I can say at the time, I didn’t expect anybody to step in.”
Remy is the lone black player on the UW men’s tennis team, and in a sport that is dominantly white in its racial demographics, the sophomore has used the lack of representation in tennis as motivation as he pursues a professional career.
The racial disparity is nothing new for Remy. He grew up in Roslyn, New York, a city that is 76 percent white and just 2 percent black.
Remy has been playing tennis since he was six-years-old, and while it wasn’t the most popular sport in his hometown, he preferred it to all the other sports he played. He was exposed to the sport at a young age thanks to his father.
“I think [tennis] just started becoming more oriented towards younger kids a few years ago only,” Remy said. “I was taking lessons with my dad, and he had a coach he would always hit with and he would just bring me along.”
Growing up, Remy looked up to former world No. 1 player Arthur Ashe, the only notable professional black tennis player at the time, but he had not played professionally since he retired in 1979. Remy’s family also lived just 20 minutes from Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, where he said he went to the U.S. Open on a yearly basis until he was about 14.
Today, there is currently only one active black professional tennis player: 26-year-old Donald Young. But he has not held a ranking higher than No. 38, nor has he made it past the fourth round of any major event.
Instead of the lack of racial representation in the sport discouraging Remy from playing the sport he loves, he’s using it as motivation and a source of pride.
“I wanted to be like [Ashe],” Remy said. “I wanted to give something different for people to see because the sport of tennis is predominantly white.”
Remy maintained that mindset growing up, going to boarding school in Florida, and now, in his short time at Madison, where he has experienced many of the same things he did back home in New York.
When he walks down the street, he sees predominantly white people, and given his 6-feet, 170-pound frame and race, he said people just tend to assume he is a football player.
“I can see the resemblance, as I’m a pretty big guy, but there’s definitely a notion that you’re either a football player or a basketball player here if you’re black,” Remy said. “I think if you’re black here, everyone just assumes you are an athlete already.”
Remy understands why people have these preconceived notions, especially on a campus like UW’s, but he doesn’t let those notions affect him.
The sophomore acknowledged that race isn’t always the easiest or most comfortable topic to discuss, and despite the troubling experiences he’s had, they’ve been minor bumps in the road as he continues to strive to join the small group of professional black tennis players.
“I know there aren’t many African-Americans playing tennis at the time,” Remy said. “I definitely feel a sense of pride.”