By LUT WILLIAMS BCSP Editor
NBA star Chris Paul of the Oklahoma City Thunder has been doing his best to tell the story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and champion the call for racial justice during the league’s restart in Orlando.
In each of the Thunder’s six games, Paul, president of the NBA Players Association and one of the league’s key movers and shakers, has been wearing HBCU gear including hats, masks, warm up jackets, T-shirts, sweatshirts and short sets en route to and after the games and has played in customized Brand Jordan sneakers with the logos of HBCU programs on them.
So far his attire has included masks emblazoned with “HBCU,” a North Carolina A&T T-shirt, a sweatshirt bearing the Texas Southern seal, shorts and a letterman’s jacket reppin’ Howard, a Savannah State T-shirt and an Albany State homecoming sweatshirt.
The shoes have included the colors and logos of N. C A&T, Alabama A&M, Howard, Livingstone, Albany State and Savannah State with the handwritten message “Can’t give up now” and “#Breonna Taylor” on them.
“HBCUs are very special to me,” Paul said to reporters after one of the games, “and I’m gonna keep championing them as much as I can.
“With the current racial awakening in our country prompting young athletes to look at where they play,” Paul said, “it’s now more important than ever to shine a light on HBCUs and showcase their value in sports and society.”
Paul, a Winston-Salem, N. C. native who attended Wake Forest University in his hometown for two years before embarking on his NBA career, has been one of the leaders among the players in the movement to bring attention to racial justice issues. Most of the players along with coaches are kneeling before games while the national anthem is played and are wearing Black Lives Matter warm-ups and jerseys emblazoned with racial justice slogans and the names of black victims of police violence.
Paul’s very public stances have been the subject of numerous stories across national and international media platforms.
One such story in SLAM Magazine entitled “Chris Paul on supporting HBCUs and fighting for social justice” by Alex Squadron is excerpted below. Paul acknowledges the role his stylist Courtney Mays played in his presentations.
SLAM: Can you walk me through the decision to pay homage to a different HBCU in each game? Why was that important to you?
CP: Yeah, we got a crazy team. Obviously, that’s Courtney (Mays); it’s my little cousin AJ Richardson who went to North Carolina A&T; my brother who played his freshman year at Hampton University. We’re from the South. We’re from North Carolina. I grew up down the street from Winston Salem State University. We’ve known about the North Carolina Centrals, the Livingstones, the A&Ts, the Hamptons, the Howards—I could go on and on. So that’s naturally part of my culture. I’m one of the only people in my family that didn’t attend an HBCU. But deep down inside, I feel like I did or I wish I would have.
I think it’s really important to me because I’m one of those people who got a lot more interested in history as I got older. When I was a kid and going through it, I wasn’t really paying attention. It was just like, That’s that and that’s that. Now that I’ve gotten older, I’ve done a lot of research into HBCUs and see that they don’t get the same funding that a lot of these other schools get—different PWIs [predominately white institutions] and different colleges. What I’ve understood in doing the research is that a lot of these HBCUs are the schools that are educating our culture, our people. So why not try to make sure they can get the same recognition? Why can’t we try to make sure that they’re funded properly? I think that’s the thing when you look at the athletic departments. That’s the one thing that a lot of these big schools have on the HBCUs—the facilities. LeVelle Moton, who’s the head coach at North Carolina Central, which is a top tier program year in and year out— we’re trying to figure out how we can get them the same facilities that you see at Kentucky. Or Mo Williams, who is now at Alabama State. I think it comes back to the education of it. I think with everything going on now, it’s awareness. A lot of awareness. You got Kyle O’Quinn in the NBA who went to Norfolk State. I was walking this morning to the bus and talking to Darrell Armstrong, who went to Fayetteville State.
SLAM: What advice would you give to a high school player who’s considering going to an HBCU?
CP: I’m fortunate enough to have an AAU program. Year in and year out we have some of the top kids, so I’ve gotten an opportunity to know not only kids in our program but kids in other programs. I think for me, I don’t ever tell any kid what school to go to. But especially now, just tell them to understand their power and their leverage. It’s a different day in that if you can play and you’re talented, they’re going to come to you. So it doesn’t matter what school you’re at. If you’re at Winston Salem State, if you’re at Coppin State, if you’re at Norfolk State, if you’re at North Carolina Central, if you’re at any of these schools or wherever it may be—they are going to find you.
SLAM: Lastly, just want to give you an opportunity to pass on a message to the next generation or spread any message that you’d like regarding social justice and the fight for equality.
CP: I think the biggest thing is—a lot of times guys wonder, Is it OK to say this? Can I do this? Is it the right time? I think you just have to be comfortable with yourself and know who you are, especially as athletes. And don’t ever look at yourself as being just an athlete. Because at the end of the day, I’m a husband, I’m a brother, I’m a child, I’m a father. All of those things come before being an athlete. So historically, athletes as advocates have been so important in raising awareness to create change. You look at people like Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Colin Kaepernick. We can make a difference.
Quote : “I’m one of the only people in my family that didn’t attend an HBCU. But deep down inside, I feel like I did or I wish I would have.” NBA star and NBAPA President, Chris Paul.