The University of Memphis is making history.
The football brood will soon sport BLM stickers on their helmets, and they’ll be wearing them for the entirety of the season.
On June 30th, head coach Ryan Silverfield tweeted the news:
“This season, for every game, our student-athletes’ helmets will have a BLM sticker. #ALLINagainstRACIALINJUSTICE.”
— Ryan Silverfield (@RSilverfield) June 30, 2020
As noted by The Daily Wire, the announcement distinguishes the Tigers as the first Division 1 team to make such a commitment.
Ryan told the Commercial Appeal, it was the players’ idea:
“The use of the BLM logo on a helmet decal was an idea from our student-athletes.”
We make space for transgender brothers and sisters to participate and lead.
We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.
We build a space that affirms Black women and is free from sexism, misogyny, and environments in which men are centered.
We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.
We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).
And the organization isn’t down on the sensibilities of Karl Marx:
Black Lives Matter movement founder: "We are trained Marxists."pic.twitter.com/bG7QENIM98
— Liz Wheeler (@Liz_Wheeler) June 22, 2020
Are those also the stances of UM?
Ryan doesn’t appear to believe so. He texted as much to the Appeal:
“It doesn’t mean we support any anti-American, violent organization or hate group or any specific political party. In fact, I love this country and I love our players. Rather the decal is a show of support to our team.”
The coach believes it’s his duty. Here’s what Silverfield told Memphis’s WMC5:
“The student-athletes here are brave young men and women, that have shared their stories. I think it’s remarkable that we continue to learn and do what we can to make a change and progress. It’s not an overnight deal, but we’ve got to continue to grow and I’ve got to do a better job myself as a head coach because I understand that I have a platform, and I have to voice myself in order to have student-athletes backs and make sure they are not being treated unjustly in all walks of life. And that I don’t care if it’s tomorrow or 20 years from now, we’ve got to keep chipping away at this thing and hope to make a positive difference in society.”
At the time, Ryan attended — in the words of WMC5 reporter Cassie Carlson — a “protest for racial equality”:
Memphis FB head coach Ryan Silverfield at the Tigers protest for racial equality.
— Cassie Carlson (@CassieCarlsonTV) June 14, 2020
As for the decal, he explained to UK outlet The Athletic that it needs to be a long-term commitment:
“I just thought it was a good way to support. This can’t just be a one-time thing where I send out a tweet or have one unity march. It’s got to be ongoing. I can’t think of a better way to show support than to put it on display and do it in a proud way.”
Back to BLM’s organizational tenets, the university’s president also felt compelled to insist the school isn’t getting political.
To Dr. M. David Rudd, it’s all about unity:
“These are difficult and divisive times in our country. It has never been more critical for us to come together, support one another, confront our challenges, recognize our shortcomings and move forward with common vision and shared values. Our Tiger football team recently decided they will wear a Black Lives Matter emblem on their helmet during the upcoming season. I want to make clear this does not represent endorsement of any political entity or affiliated group; it represents a commitment to social justice and American values we all embrace but have not fully realized as a country.”
— Dr. M. David Rudd (@UofMemphisPres) July 2, 2020
As per the Appeal, at the June protest, “Silverfield and his players chanted [‘Black Lives Matter’] at one point during their walk…”
He made things clear during the June rally:
“Right now, tomorrow, and forever – we are all in for social justice.”
— Ryan Silverfield (@RSilverfield) June 16, 2020
It is, of course, imperative that every human life matters.
Putting aside BLM in particular, where politics at all are concerned, will football fans — of the University of Memphis, and of the NFL…more broadly, will spectators of sports across the nation approve of our newly charged arena of athletics?
Will it be viewed as a step toward victory via unity?
I’m guessing some won’t see it as a win.
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