A lot will look familiar when the nationally-ranked University of Iowa men’s basketball team tips off the 2020-21 season Wednesday. The Hawkeyes return 11 players from last year’s 20-win squad.
However, there will also be a new look as the team takes a stand against social injustice and inequality. Student-athletes will have the word EQUALITY on the back of their jersey, underneath the number, and PEACE, LOVE, EQUALITY on the front of their pregame shooting shirts. Coaches and staff on the bench will rotate wearing ANTI-HATE and ANTI-RACISM lapel pins each game.
Junior Joe Wieskamp credits one of the team’s seniors in leading the charge of taking action.
“Luka was one of the main guys that wanted to get this started with us,” Wieskamp said. “I think having equality on the back of our jersey is a good simple word that means a lot and sends a powerful message.”
Garza says he has seen positive change since this summer, but there is still a lot that needs to be done.
“The most important thing for me is learning and educating yourself on what you can do to help make this world a better place,” said Garza. “It’s obvious there needs to be change. We can’t get comfortable. We have to keep pushing so there is social justice and equality.”
Sophomore Joe Toussaint, who is one of seven players of color on the roster, said his teammates’ stance on systematic inequality has been uplifting.
“Hearing them express how much they cared about (social inequality) really touched me,” said Toussaint. “Knowing that I have people that have my back that aren’t my color means a lot to me.”
Redshirt senior Jordan Bohannon agrees that it is important for he and his teammates to use their voice as college athletes because they have a large audience.
“It is important for us to continue to stand for what’s important in life,” said Bohannon. “It’s not just basketball, there are more important things throughout life. We want to stand up for everyone no matter your race, where you are from, or where you grew up. It’s important for us to continue to stand for those things.”
Redshirt junior Connor McCaffery, who is one of 10 University of Iowa representatives on the Big Ten Anti-Racism and Anti-Hate Coalition, said that he has been outspoken about social injustice.
“This is something I feel strongly about,” McCaffery said. “With everything that is going on you need to recognize and be there for people who are hurting and for people who feel affected. Having EQUALITY and PEACE, LOVE on our team gear are the messages we want to spread.”
Head coach Fran McCaffery echoes his players’ comments emphasizing that as a society we must stand together for equality and human rights.
“Positive change only takes place through action,” McCaffery said. “I am proud of our guys in how they are using their platform to better society.”
Prior to the national anthem of Wednesday’s game, the Iowa basketball team took a knee in solidarity and had the following statement read over the public address system.
For too long, systemic inequality has created segregation and widespread inequity. We cannot remain silent.
The Iowa basketball program stands in solidarity with those fighting for a more just society. We strive to be allies to communities of color, including using our platform for good.
In doing so, we must challenge ourselves to understand and correct any inequities we may discover. This requires difficult conversations. It requires course-correction. It requires getting uncomfortable. Only in doing so, will we create lasting, sustainable change.
We are on this journey together as a team and in our community.