U. Memphis football team to wear 'BLM' helmet decals
- The Memphis University football team will don “BLM” stickers on their helmets this season.
- The head coach and the university president says the move is not a political one.
Memphis University Tigers football head coach Ryan Silverfield announced in a Tuesday tweet that his team will wear “BLM” stickers this season.
“This season, for every game, our student-athletes’ helmets will have a BLM sticker. #ALLINagainstRACIALINJUSTICE,” Silverfield said.
The new decal will feature BLM, the acronym for the Black Lives Matter movement, with the school’s “M” tiger logo replacing the acronym’s M.
Silverfield had tweeted this logo a few weeks earlier.
The decision to include these stickers is the latest example of public stances being taken on college campuses against the recent murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed in police custody, and the racism some say is "systemic" throughout American society.
Despite Black Lives Matter’s support of leftist-backed causes, such as defunding the police, Silverfield says he does not intend to take a political stance by using the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”
“The use of the BLM logo on a helmet decal was an idea from our student-athletes,” Silverfield said in an interview with The Memphis Commercial 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.”
Silverfield was named head coach of the Tigers on Dec. 13, after leading the Tigers to an American Athletic Conference title, an appearance in the Cotton Bowl, and a #17 national ranking as deputy head coach during the 2019 season. Since the death of George Floyd, he has been vocal in his stance against racism, marching alongside fellow Tigers in Memphis Athletics’ recent “Unity Walk” and talking with his players about the recent social unrest in the United States.
“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,” Silverfield said according to WMC-TV.
While many college athletes have participated in similar protests, like kneeling during the national anthem, Memphis’ football team is the first to publicly announce they will wear a decal to spread this message. Silverfield explained that while a protest is a one-time thing, a decal will continue throughout the season and have an ongoing impact.
“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,” Silverfield said in an interview with The Athletic. “I can’t think of a better way to show support than to put it on display and do it in a proud way.”
Silverfield has not responded to Campus Reform’s request for comment.
University of Memphis President M. David Rudd said in a statement released Thursday that the team's decal "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."
"I support our athletic department, our head coach and our football team. I am proud of our young men for demonstrating leadership, encouraging civility, and for their genuine efforts to unite us so our University of Memphis family can become even stronger together," he added.
The University of Memphis did not respond in time for publication when asked whether players will be required to wear the decal.
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