Over the last few weeks and months, fans of the NBA and other major sports leagues have seen players don special patches and nameplates to commemorate social justice initiatives or for other memorial purposes.
“Black Lives Matter” has appeared on NBA and MLB jerseys as professional athletes from all around the country and world rally around recent social injustices. In the coming days and weeks, those displays of support will likely spread to the NCAA as the football season, at least in part, is scheduled to begin.
On July 30, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved rules allowing for the use of two patches to be worn on any student-athletes’ jersey. The patches can be “commemorative or memorial” in purpose and can also support social justice initiatives.
One of the patches will appear on the front of a players’ jersey on either the sleeve or front and can be used to memorialize a person or event, but can not exceed 2.25 square inches, according to the NCAA. The second area will be where the nameplate is traditionally located and can include names and words to support or memorialize a person or cause.
As the start of their fall sports schedule nears, ECU’s football team is narrowing down a list of options for the patches they will wear on their uniforms. The Pirates’ Racial Equality Task Force formed by Athletic Director Jon Gilbert and chaired by head women’s basketball coach Kim McNeill, has had input on the matter, as have various student-athletes.
“I anticipate our entire team participating in that,” head football coach Mike Houston said on Tuesday. “We have a task force that Jon Gilbert has formed that’s going to come up with a couple options for our team. We’ve talked about it, we’re going to pick from those options which one we want to wear. Just like with so many of the things that we’ve done, we want to be unified in what we stand for.”
The patch on the front front of each jersey must be uniform across the team per the NCAA, but names and words on the back can vary from player to player. Not all team members must wear the patch.
On June 6, ECU football released a video on its Twitter page that said, in part, “In our locker room our differences cause us to grow as human beings.” The video itself was framed in by the words “enough is enough” and captioned with “In our locker room…words from our players.”
“Just like we’ve talked about earlier in the summer, in our locker room, we embrace each other, we embrace the diversity of each other,” Houston said. “We want equality for everyone. We want social justice for everyone. We’re going to be very unified in what we do here as a program.”
It is unclear at this time what options the Pirates are considering for the patches on their uniform. We are just 16 days away from the Pirates’ season-opener against Marshall that was set for Aug. 29. That date, however, will likely be pushed back to either Sept. 5 or Sept. 12 with an official announcement coming this week.