“More than half” of the UCLA Bruins football team will reportedly wear uniforms with social justice messages during their nationally televised season opener at Colorado on Saturday.
According to the Los Angeles Times, participating players will replace the surnames on the back of their jerseys with one-word themes chosen from the following options: Justice, Love, Peace, Equality, and Unity.
The outlet reported that student-athletes brought the idea to head coach Chip Kelly. He then pitched the proposal to his boss, athletic director Martin Jarmond, for approval.
“I think it’s admirable because they’re trying to use their platform to make an impact so I met with them and listened to their motivation,” Jarmond told The Times. “Ultimately, I supported it because this is something that represents UCLA. This is what UCLA is all about.”
Updated story on UCLA wearing jerseys with one-word social justice messages. https://t.co/lheIEzmEvu
— Ben Bolch (@latbbolch) November 4, 2020
The report said players would only don the social justice jerseys for the opener, and teammates who decided not to take part would wear their standard game gear.
Coach Kelly said “it’s something we totally support” and believes the action will “help make this country better.”
Still, the National Basketball Association (NBA) recently faced criticism for bringing politics onto the court.
The league finished the season playing its games inside a “bubble” at Walt Disney World due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The words “Black Lives Matter” were prominently featured on the hardwood where teams competed, while players were encouraged to display related slogans on their backs, such as “I Can’t Breathe,” “Say Their Names,” and “Sí Se Puede.”
Kyle Korver opted to use "Black Lives Matter" on the back of his jersey for the NBA restart, saying those three words encapsulate his entire message. https://t.co/m1kmFzNxL2 pic.twitter.com/HocvvsdVEW
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 12, 2020
After generating record-low ratings, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league would leave social justice messages “off the floor” moving forward.
Other college football teams, such as Clemson, have worn similar messages on their jerseys. However, as the LA Times reports, “few, if any, teams have had as many players participate as the Bruins are expected to during their nationally televised game against the Buffaloes.”
More from The Times:
UCLA athletes have long championed social causes before and after their time on campus. Bill Walton once lay on Wilshire Boulevard to protest the Vietnam War, and Lewis Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) traveled to Cleveland to support Muhammad Ali after the boxer had been stripped of his heavyweight title and faced charges of draft dodging for his refusal to participate in the Vietnam War.
After they left UCLA, Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Kenny Washington helped integrate the NFL and tennis star Arthur Ashe crusaded against apartheid in South Africa.
“I think UCLA has always been a place for social issues to be challenged and progressed and it’s no different during this time,” quarterback Chase Griffin said recently. “Luckily I chose a home where the people by and large are for that and always have been and this institution has always been a beacon for that and we’re not stopping anything soon.”
The Pac-12 football schedule features a seven-game, conference-only lineup, which begins on Saturday. Each team will play five divisional games and one crossover game against a non-division opponent. The season ends with a “Championship Week” featuring all 12 teams.