The recent statement released by Texas Longhorns athletes across multiple sports included a request for the athletics department to donate .5 percent of earnings to black organizations and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Last Thursday, Tennessee announced a plan to wear black jerseys during this year’s game against Kentucky and then auction off those jerseys to benefit the Black Lives Matter movement.
JUST IN: @CoachJPruitt tells media on zoom call that Tennessee plans wear black jerseys against Kentucky this fall and then auction the uniforms after the game to raise money for Black Lives Matter.— Austin Price (@AustinPriceless) June 18, 2020
Texas should do the same thing, and there is some evidence that players support the idea — junior Jack linebacker Joseph Ossai tweeted his thoughts on the matter Thursday evening and senior offensive guard Tope Imade suggested that it isn’t a new idea on the Forty Acres.
Had this idea going around for so long. Continuously gets shut down...— Tope Imade (@TopeImade) June 19, 2020
Athletics director Chris Del Conte has consistently expressed his support for maintaining the traditional and iconic Texas uniforms. But this is a different issue — this is about ensuring that tradition doesn’t stand in the way of progress and necessary change.
As my colleague Gerald Goodridge expressed so clearly, “Traditions that lose their purpose become shackles that keep us from our full potential.”
The virtually-unchanging Texas uniforms are representative of a program that doesn’t need to regularly reimagine its public branding. Those uniforms suggest a sense of constancy and continued cohesion around a purpose. There is reason to take pride in that.
But this moment demands the flexibility to change and to reimagine, even if it’s only for a game.
In early June, Kenyatta Watson, the father of the sophomore Texas cornerback of the same name, tweeted out an edited image of his son in a black Longhorns jersey.
The idea of wearing a black alternate football jersey was always on the radical side of uniform ideas, even though other sports programs at the school have worn black or “anthracite” uniforms in the past.
Now it’s the right time for the football program to adopt the idea for a game — it would be for a good cause instead of simply serving as a marketing stunt that flies in the face of tradition, it would allow Black football players to feel like they have input on school traditions, and would even allow the university to gain some goodwill with those athletes as it decides whether to make more institutionally-difficult decisions like renaming buildings or not singing The Eyes of Texas.
Let players decide if they want to put “BLM” on the front of the jersey instead of Texas or on the back of their jersey in an echo of the two recent Premier League matches that featured kits with “Black Lives Matter” on the back. Let them have input and make a public display of support for them.
It’s easy for the administration to release statements and talk about having dialogues with Black students and Black athletes about their requests. But it’s not that much more difficult to recognize when temporarily sacrificing tradition can make a big positive change in the world.
After all, it shouldn’t be that hard to do the right thing.