Athletic Management, 13.3, April/May 2001, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/am/am1303/bbdiversity.htm
Last fall, the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) added social action to its agenda, launching a program aimed at promoting tolerance for diversity. Called One Nation, One Flag, One People, the campaign hopes to encourage the college basketball community and its fans to take a stand against discrimination, injustice, and bigotry in America.
The program is designed to begin 13 minutes before a college or high school basketball game. With both teams positioned on their respective foul lines, the arena’s public address announcer reads a prepared statement reminding all in attendance that they have the power to take a stand against intolerance. Following the statement, both teams remain on the court for the playing of the National Anthem. Afterwards, the teams meet at center court to shake hands.
“We feel there is no greater melting pot than college basketball,” says Jim Haney, Director of the NABC, “and from that, we hope to showcase the mutual respect and shared goals every team generates despite the numerous cultural backgrounds of the players and coaches.”
The project’s kickoff took place at the University of Kansas’ Allen Field House during the Kansas-California All-Stars exhibition game on November 1. “I am honored that the University of Kansas was selected as the site to launch this meaningful program,” said Head Coach Roy Williams. “As coaches, we are used to being on the sidelines, but not on an issue like this one. We are taking a stand against ignorance caused by hatred and are asking everyone involved in the basketball community, and beyond, to stand with us.”
According to the NABC, the project developed in response to a few key events, including last summer’s controversy in South Carolina over the flying of the Confederate flag above the Statehouse. “That was kind of the catalyst,” says Kevin Henderson, Assistant Executive Director of the NABC. “Instead of being so combative over the South Carolina flag issue and making it such a negative topic, we wanted to try to birth something that was positive and would bring light to matters of this type—that America really has no place for symbols of hate.
“So we created a program that would work in that context,” he continues. “It’s a positive way of addressing some of the negatives that still exist in our country.”
Another factor was losses in the basketball community at the hands of hate crimes. In an October press release, the NABC cited the murder of former Northwestern University Head Coach Ricky Birdsong, the murder of Columbine High School Head Girls’ Basketball Coach Dave Sanders, and the shooting-induced paralysis of 18-year-old Cal State-Fullerton player Rodney Anderson as examples of how profoundly intolerance has touched the sport.
Since its kickoff, the NABC has promoted the program to all schools at the Division I level and has seen positive response. “It has even spread to the high school ranks in some areas,” says Henderson.
According to host schools, the response from the audience has been extremely favorable. “Both Coach Williams and I have received numerous letters from fans saying how nice they think it is and how glad they are we’re doing it,” says Bob Frederick, Director of Athletics at the University of Kansas. “We’ve also received many verbal compliments about how positive they think it is.
“In my job I’m used to getting a lot of negative letters, so it’s been really nice to hear favorable feedback,” continues Frederick. “It has been a positive undertaking for us, and I think it’s good for the game, because when you have both teams standing out there facing each other before the contest, and the players all shake hands, it sets a positive tone for good sportsmanship.”
St. John’s (N.Y) University has also been holding the pregame ceremony at its men’s and women’s basketball games this season. “You hear a lot of negative things in sports,” says Ed Manetta, Director of Athletics at St. John’s, “and a program like this shows our fans and the kids who look up to student-athletes that we believe in our country and what it stands for.
“And it’s an innovative way to promote tolerance,” Manetta continues. “I think when our student-athletes hear that statement and the anthem, they also begin to realize how fortunate they are to be in a free country like the United States of America, where we have tremendous opportunity. And it makes them pretty proud to be out there representing their university.
“We’ve gotten nothing but tremendously positive response about this ceremony. People have sent so many letters and e-mails saying how glad they are to see our student-athletes participate in something like this, and that they’re very proud of St. John’s for instituting the program here.”
Those interested in implementing the One Nation, One Flag, One People program can obtain a copy of the ceremony’s prepared statement by logging onto www.nabc.com/bko/news/onenfp.html.