Martin Luther King day was yesterday, but tonight brought a poignant and admirable tribute to the man, what he stood for and the meaning of the holiday. The Northwestern Wildcats hosted the #17 Maryland Terrapins tonight in Evanston, with both teams wearing a warm-up shirt that honored MLK and his ideals.
It was a shirt that the players had a hand in designing too, as the end result was composed of words that came to mind when the players thought of America’s greatest crusader for social justice, and the legacy he left behind. The collaborative effort came together largely because both schools have Under Armor as their sportswear partner, as UA CEO Kevin Plank is a Maryland alum.
The Terrapins (Net ranking 15, SoS 8, NCAA Tournament projection #5 seed) won the game 77-66, in a game where they trailed by as many as 15, but both teams were winners in the much bigger game of life as they honored our nation’s most prominent Civil Rights hero.
“Dr. King was a great role model and leader for all of us," said Northwestern coach Chris Collins before the game.
"The things he taught and spoke about were so ahead of his time and it applied to so many people and brought people together. It’s beyond basketball."
Here's the link to the Northwestern video unveiling of the shirt.
The result of the word association with Dr. King's teachings are written inside the initials MLK on the front of the shirt, with the word “dream” emblazoned across the back.
“Dr. Martin Luther King fought for equality, which eventual has allowed me the opportunity to come to Northwestern for academics and to play basketball,” said promising and exciting NU freshman guard Daniel "Boo" Buie.
After the game, players and coaches discussed the experience of warming up in the MLK shirts and the reaction to wearing them.
"I just work here, but I thought it was great that we were able to honor him (MLK)" said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon in post game. The school did not send out statements about the shirts before the game.
"I think the messages and the words we put on the shirt meant a lot,” said Northwestern forward Pete Nance after the game.
"I think they turned out really cool," added NU point guard Pat Spencer.
All in all, the gesture of designing and wearing the shirts was a tremendous statement for causes related to social progress, something that we have seen a little more of, lately, in the sports world. That said, hopefully we'll see more of this, because the misnomer of "shut up and play" (a concept which never actually existed in the first place) is certainly long gone.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry," regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the "Let's Get Weird, Sports" podcast on SB Nation.
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