Sophomore forward Patrick Mwamba, left, sophomore guard Ayoub Nouhi, center, and freshman guard Nicolas Elame stand during the national anthem prior to the game against the University of Louisiana Monroe on Feb. 1 at College Park Center. UTA wore shirts during the game in honor of Black History Month. (Credit: The Shorthorn)

The UTA men’s basketball team has been wearing shirts in honor of beloved Black figures to foster conversation, especially in the month of February.

Matt McGann, the video coordinator for the University of Texas Arlington Mavericks, wanted to do something that would honor Black History Month. He told The Shorthorn that those in the crowd needed to be engrossed by more than just sports. He decided that the players on the team would wear T-shirts that featured prominent figures in Black history.

“I really attacked it like, ‘What’s the message that UTA basketball wants to provide?’” McGann said. “We want to educate, we want to inform. We want to tell people about what they might not know about.”

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McGann was inspired by the by previous equality-centered T-shirts by the NBA and UTA. During the Feb. 1 pregame match with the University of Louisiana Monroe, the Mavericks took to the court in the newly designed shirts that paid tribute a wide spectrum of icons.

Former President Barack Obama, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Colin Kaepernick, and Kobe Bryant were some of the figures chosen by the members of the team. The T-shirts were Black, featured gold bars and a line that read “Ask Me About.”

Junior guard Davis Steelman chose Mandela due to him visiting South Africa last year. Tracing the leader’s footsteps left an impression he wanted to share.

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“I think a lot of people didn’t really know about Nelson Mandela and the whole apartheid situation,” Steelman said. “[My presentation] was a little longer, I think, than a lot of other people’s, but I already knew about it.”

His teammate, Sam Griffin, chose Nipsey Hussle. The rapper and activist was murdered in March 2019. The freshman guard wanted to spotlight Black on Black crime and the need to come together.

“It translates to the court,” Griffin said. “As a team, you have to be as one. We can’t worry about whatever the outsiders have to say. We just have to stay together.”

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McGann said that more than 20 people asked about the shirts since they started wearing them. He was happy that the various messages from the team gained traction.

“[It’s] about educating younger people, older people on our history and how we can be better from it, but also embrace and admire the people who paved the way for us,” McGann said.