When Stillman College takes the floor for its first-ever Sweet 16 appearance in the NAIA tournament Thursday, the group will be carrying a special message in tow.
That Black lives matter.
Stillman players will display that message on their jerseys Thursday against St. Francis.
“It was an easy decision to add a Black Lives Matter patch to all our uniforms this year,” said Stillman College athletic director Ken Alston. “When the opportunity came about, we jumped on it. Our President, Dr. Cynthia Warrick, is all about moving the needle forward. There is no better time and no better stage for these patches to be displayed.”
The patch, worn all season on the back center of the Tigers’ jerseys instead of a nameplate that reads “Black Lives Matter Stillman College Athletics.”
However, in gold thread, one can also read Black colleges matter — a double meaning that stands as a mission for Stillman as the only small HBCU still playing nationally in any non-Division I postseason tournament.
In the NAIA, it’s been four seasons since an HBCU appeared in the Round of 16 and six seasons since an HBCU won a Round of 16 game.
Beyond that, the last time an HBCU program appeared in an NAIA national championship game was West Virginia State in 1987.
“This is a huge opportunity that we will not take lightly,” Alston said. “It speaks volumes for Stillman as we are pushing our brand worldwide. Athletics and the fine men of this outstanding basketball program are the conduits. I’m excited, and can’t wait for Thursday.”
Having won its first NAIA men’s basketball national tournament game this past Saturday, Stillman is not settling for being the only HBCU small school still playing but seeks to become the NAIA’s 12th HBCU national champion.
“We’re focused on Saint Francis and do not want to look ahead, but it would be great to win it all,” said Stillman head coach John Teasley. “Stillman College means so much to a lot of people, to our alumni that came here and the community loves us. You see Stillman on buildings and in classrooms and tiger paw prints on the street. It’s so important for our guys to understand they are playing for more than themselves this week. We are playing for all of the people who support us, and we are thankful to represent them in the NAIA Tournament.”
Courtesy: Stillman College